BBC Gardeners' World Magazine

Alan’s showstoppe­rs

Enjoy colour in every season with these six seasonal delights


Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’

One of the largest-leaved hostas, it never fails to draw admiring glances when it’s grown well. It likes a rich, moisturere­tentive soil, but you can also grow it in a large pot if you’re generous with food and water. Pot feet will help to deter slugs.

Ilex × altacleren­sis ‘Golden King’

Despite its name, this is a female variety. It has bright yellow-variegated leaves and – as long as there’s a male variety nearby to ensure pollinatio­n – masses of bright red berries in winter. You can clip it to keep it within bounds and enjoy rich pickings for festive decoration­s.


Grow as many different tulips as you can! They’re the brightest flowers of spring. I plant them in groups in beds and borders and also in terracotta pots (10 bulbs per 30cm pot) to enjoy on a terrace or patio. ‘Spring Green’ will come up year after year.

Magnolia × loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’

One of the earliest magnolias to flower, this stellata type has flowers of soft pink that simply smother the branches. Occasional­ly damaged by spring frosts, it is neverthele­ss worth the risk. It prefers neutral to acid soil but will also grow on chalk.

Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Mariesii’

A shrub that sells on sight in spring when its tiers of horizontal branches are decorated with flattened heads of creamy-white flowers. Train a texensis or viticella clematis up it for summer colour and cut the clematis back to the ground in winter. Plant in dappled shade.

Camellia japonica ‘Ave Maria’

All camellias are spectacula­r in spring, but this variety has perfectly formed, neat rosettes of the softest pink. It needs a spot in dappled shade and acid soil. If you garden on chalk or limestone, grow it in a tub of ericaceous (lime-free) compost and let it drink only rainwater.

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