Gardens Illustrated Magazine

March plants

In the first of a new monthly series, Lowther Castle’s head gardener Andrea Brunsendor­f chooses the ten plants for March that bring her joy

- Andrea Brunsendor­f is head gardener at Lowther Castle & Gardens in Cumbria lowthercas­tle.org PHOTOGRAPH­S ANDREW MAYBURY

SARCOCOCCA HOOKERIANA VAR. DIGYNA ‘PURPLE STEM’

This evergreen shrub fills Lowther Castle’s ruin with fragrance early in the year, gradually forming a dense thicket. The new shoots are flushed with purple-pink hues, and the tiny scented pink-white flowers are borne in the leaf axils. Sarcococca­s are valuable for shade, and also do well in containers, if you annually enrich the compost with organic matter and water well throughout. Long shoots can be pruned straight after flowering to maintain a symmetrica­l habit. AGM.

Height and spread 1m x 1m.

Origin Western Himalayas and China. Conditions Moist, well-drained, organicall­y rich soil; partial to deep shade; protect from cold winds. Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 6a-8b. Season of interest December – March.

SORBARIA SORBIFOLIA

A deciduous shrub that rapidly spreads by suckers, forming tall thickets. It leafs out early with attractive pinkish-bronze foliage that gradually becomes deep green in summer. A long-term favourite of mine. I never dared plant it in the ground in any of my previous gardens, although it was always part of large container displays, as drier conditions dwarf it. From July to August, it offers fleecy panicles that are 25cm long and perfect white, turning brown as the flowers senesce, adding interest to its winter structure.

Height and spread 3m x 3m.

Origin Northern Asia from Urals to Japan. Conditions Moist, well-draining and moderately organicall­y rich soil; full sun to part shade.

Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 2a-8b.

Season of interest March – April for changing foliage. June – July for flowers.

HELLEBORUS X HYBRIDUS ‘YELLOW LADY’

This seed-strain hybrid hellebore is part of the Lady Series, developed by the German plantswoma­n Gisela Schmiemann. It is noted for its evergreen, leathery, dark-green, glossy leaves and pale-yellow cupped flowers with maroon spots. The foliage can get scorched by cold winter winds if not protected, but cutting the leaves back in late winter will show off the charming flowers even more. It self-seeds happily, but it’s promiscuou­s, so you may end up with your very own strain of Lady.

Height and spread 35cm x 35cm. Origin Garden origin.

Conditions Moist, well-draining and moderately organicall­y rich soils, preferably alkaline; part to full shade. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA 4a-9b. Season of interest February – April.

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