GARDEN NEWCOMERS 4: SHRUBS : GADENING

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The Independent Culture
UNLIKE bedding plants, shrubs cannot be discarded after a season and their ultimate size makes choosing whether or not to grow them an important decision. So the turnover of new varieties is slower and less well publicised than it is with smaller plants. An exception has been the "Barnsley" tree mallow, with porcelain pale flowers, which occurred as a chance seedling in Rosemary Verey's famous garden. This has been the best seller of the Nineties. It flowers all summer, but it grows thuggish in old age, and as it has now made an appearance in so many gardens it could be suffering from over-exposure. The plant that seems set to replace "Barnsley" is a new Lavatera called "Pink Frills", a shrub with better manners and smaller flowers.

Choisya "Sundance", the golden choisya, was launched about nine years ago but it has not had the success of "Barnsley", perhaps because the leaves remind one more of jaundice than of jewels. Another newish choisya, "Aztec Pearl", also capitalises on pricelessness. With finely cut leaves and two seasons of flower, it ought to be a valuable addition to the garden, but I have not found anywhere to put it yet.

New buddleias are much easier to place. Recent hybrids have come a long way from the wastelands where their ancestors grew. There are three that I think are very worthwhile. "Dartmoor" is for those who love to create a splash. The flowers are like those of a normal buddleia, but instead of being single, they branch out into other flowers, making multi-heads of drooping cones which are all of rich purple. "Nanho Blue" is more refined, with little silvery leaves that last through winter and typical buddleia flowers of lavender blue, but they are smaller than the type. I like this shrub immoderately and there is a danger that I will make it as much of a clich as the "Barnsley" mallow. Buddleia "Golden Glow" has a very long flowering season, but its orangey balls of flower may not suit every gardener's summer palette. "Moonlight" is slightly paler. All these buddleias will bring butterflies into the garden.

A viburnum from Japan, "Watanabe", ought to be better known. Its other name is "Nanum Semperflorens" and it really does flower for months. In the autumn it has rosy leaves as well as white flowers. I have seen and admired it in the gardens of others and planted it in my own garden, but so irresistible is it to rabbits that its growth has been permanently stunted. Now it lives in a sort of basket cage made of hazel shoots. Townees might find "Watanabe" more suitable than gardeners with rabbit problems.

Top horticulturalists are always on the look out for plants that can show that they are hardier or will flower earlier than the type and Hoheria "Stardust" is a Roy Lancaster discovery. Hoheria sexystylosa is a tender evergreen with scented white flowers in late summer, but "Stardust" is hardier and flowers earlier than the unnamed form. This makes growing the exotic shrub a possibility for north of England gardeners, although they might have to give it the protection of a wall to make sure of keeping it through the winter.

Other qualities that growers search out are variations in leaf colour or in the habit of a plant's growth. Fastigiate forms of well known plants are often an exciting find. "Greenpeace" is a columnar box, like a small Irish yew, which was discovered in America. It is still only available from Langley Boxwood, the specialist nursery which first imported it, but this is a plant to watch out for if you like to introduce architectural shapes into your plantings. Penwood Nursery is a place to see the latest developments in trees and shrubs. As I write they are propagating crosses of cotoneasters with cydonias and quinces, for gardeners of the future to grow.

SUPPLIERS: Langley Boxwood, Liss, Hants, tel: 0730 894 467; Penwood Nursery, The Drove, Penwood, Highclere, Hamp-shire, tel: 0635 254 366 (but no mail order)

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