Tales from the Garden – Winter Shapes
The lovely scents of Sarcococca, Mahonia and Daphne bholua have been around for several weeks now. Aconites, snowdrops and snowflakes, as well as the winter flowering cherry, are providing a hint of colour while bulbs are surfacing all over the place. Before the many flowers of Spring take centre stage, I thought I would look at some of the plants which are not in flower, but which have come through the winter well and are looking good now.
This Teucrium fruticans is a Mediterranean shrub of slightly doubtful hardiness here in Edinburgh, with blue flowers rather like those of rosemary. Its leaves and stems are very pale silver, their colour never changes and they always look healthy. It does not mind being tight clipped as it is here, and this shape has looked good all winter. However it will soon put on new growth and its long thin twigs will make it less neat and tidy softening the picture somewhat.
Also silver is this Astelia which was given to me many years ago by Geoff Brooks, who some members will remember. It has never been moved or divided. I love it for it always looks good and it provides a centrepiece for the front of the rockery. Now the hebe on the left is invading its space and something will have to be done, but I am not yet sure what. We have another larger Astelia, (chathamica ‘Silver Spear’), which is also an excellent plant and its larger silver leaves catch the light, but its leaves grow in disorderly fashion and grow old less discretely.
Melianthus major is also not truly hardy. Here the two other clumps we have were frosted and the dead leaves look awful so they have been cut right back to base. They have already sprouted and I hope they won’t get frosted again. This one, against the wall of the house, has been putting on pale green new growth which will probably get frosted too but for now provides a colourful contrast to the rather sombre colour of most of the other evergreens.
We planted 12 of these Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’ along the house a couple of years ago where we used to grow lavender. The lavender replacements never thrived so although the Pittosporums are a bit out of scale with the height of the house, and have not exactly gown uniformly, I am pleased with the effect, especially at this time of year when they are dark and shiny.
One of the stars of this garden is Euphorbia mellifera. It is usually in flower for the garden opening in May and people are mystified by the scent of honey it gives off. This one in the herbaceous border was cut right down last year and so this is recent growth, but another grows in shade in the gravel between the house and the road and is fully 12 feet tall. I can’t quite bring myself to cut it right back but have cut off one or two of the branches and obligingly replacements are already on the way. This one seeds readily and there will be small plants for sale at our plant sale at the Garden Opening on Sunday 10th May when we are again raising funds for the teaching greenhouse at Saughton.
(All photos taken recently)