Shrub­bing up nicely...

With Diar­muid Gavin As au­tumn breezes in, hardy fuch­sias lead a le­gion of beau­ties to brighten up Septem­ber

Star Courier (Surrey & Hants) - - FRONT PAGE -

With a gen­tle cooling of tem­per­a­tures and a soft­en­ing of the light, we wel­come the start of au­tumn – and hope it will be a cle­ment one as it’s a won­der­ful time to be out­doors.

Walk­ing in a coun­try lane re­cently I saw sor­bus trees laden with red ber­ries, as well as shiny, plump black­ber­ries ripen­ing on the vine and rose­hips swelling.

As the poet John Keats wrote, it’s the sea­son of mists and mel­low fruit­ful­ness. But there are also plenty of flow­ers to ad­mire as well.

There are many beau­ti­ful herba­ceous plants danc­ing in the bor­ders – cro­cos­mia, asters, rud­beck­ias, he­le­ni­ums and se­dum to name but a few – but this week I am go­ing to cel­e­brate the shrubs that shine in Septem­ber.

Top of my list is the hardy fuch­sia, F. mag­el­lan­ica. It’s such an easy plant to grow de­spite its won­der­ful pur­ple and red ex­otic Chilean flow­ers.

They thrive in sun or shade in any well- drained soil.

‘ Mrs Pop­ple’ is an ex­cel­lent ent cul­ti­var but I also like the grace­ful ‘ Alba’ which has del­i­cate white flow­ers, faintly tinged with pink.

‘ Tom Thumb’ is a dwarf va­ri­ety, per­fect for pa­tio or bal­cony.

Then there’s the blue spi­raea, Cary­opteris. This is a lovely front- of- bor­der com­pact shrub with ter­mi­nal­nal clus­ters of blue flow­ers – the he more in­tense blue va­ri­eties s are ‘ First Choice’ and ‘ Kew Blue’. This is a par­tic­u­larly good species for chalky soil.

Grow in full sun­shine to ben­e­fit from the scent of its aro­matic leaves and for max­i­mum flow­ers.

It’s eas­ily prop­a­gated from cut­tings and most at­trac­tive to wildlife.

Other blue flow­ers at this time can be found on Cean­othus ‘ Au­tum­nal Blue’ – a hardy ever­green cean­othus packed with sky blue flow­ers and Cer­atostigma will­mot­tianum – the hardy plumbago which pro­duces azure flow­ers over a long pe­riod in au­tumn.

Hebes are a some­times over­looked shrub, but there are some beau­ti­ful va­ri­eties – and ‘ Great Orme’ which is cur­rently in blos­som is one.

It’s an ever­green with nar­row dark leaves and lovely long spikes of pink flow­ers from July to Oc­to­ber.

Also known as shrubby veron­ica, hebes are of­ten seen in coastal dis­tricts as their leaves are well adapted to re­pelling salt- laden winds.

Plant in moist, well drained soil in full sun or par­tial shade.

Plenty of pink blooms are also still be­ing pro­duced by the trust­wor­thy mal­low, La­vat­era, and of course our old favourite, the hy­drangea.

I have a rel­a­tively young Clero­den­drum in my gar­den, and this year it has started to bloom with small white and ma­roon lily scented flow­ers.

Th­ese will be fol­lowed by bright blue fruits. If you crush the fo­liage, weirdly it smells of peanut butter. It is there­fore some­times re­ferred to as the Peanut Butter Tree but is also known as Har­lequin Glo­ry­bower.

It’s a de­cid­u­ous shrub, small at the

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