GARDENING / Fast Plants - A guide for impatient gardeners: 3: Climbers and shrubs

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The Independent Culture
IT IS a myth that no shrub grows faster than that universal hedger, the Cupressocyparis Leylandii (Leyland Cyprus). Long before a Leylandii has lost its baby branches, brooms, buddleias, ceanothus and cytisus will all look like adult plants. In two years they are man- sized, in three they have reached their peak, and by 12 they are probably past it. Their tenure might not be as long as the Leylandii, but as the British householder moves on average every five to 10 years, their demise should allow a change of scenery for a house's new occupants.

In London and the southern counties ceanothus can be grown as free-standing bushes, or even as a good informal evergreen hedge. In spring the blue flowers of this Californian lilac are intensely cheerful. C. impressus, with dark leaves, is a good form, and 'Puget Blue' has particularly dark flowers; C. thyrsiflorus has larger leaves and later flowers. Both of these are tolerably hardy and will normally grow six feet in two years, but, like all ceanothus, they prefer warm well-drained places.

Cytisus battandieri is another fast shrub that really needs a warm wall, but like ceanothus it can be grown as a free-standing bush in good climates. It can reach six foot in a summer in favoured places. Its silvery grey leaves and golden spikes of pineapple-scented flowers make it lovely in the right spot; against brick it is difficult, but on a painted or stone background it is matchless. This is not a shrub for pinning back neatly, as it likes to grow forward, but the branches can be tipped after flowering if it takes over too much space.

Hawthorn is not often chosen for gardens. A pity, because it is as tough as a plant can be in the face of wind, frost and traffic fumes. It grows anywhere, almost as fast as the warm wallers, always looks right as a deciduous hedge and its prickles make it vandal-proof. In May the common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, has white flowers that smell of biscuits; in autumn it is covered in berries. Repeated pinching back in its first summer helps, and in three years it will make a mound of bright green that can be used as a host for clematis. The pink forms of C. oxyacantha, 'Paul's Scarlet' and 'Punicea', have crimsony flowers and dark red fruits that are as showy as any garden shrub.

Another hedgerow plant, but in a more sophisticated version, is the bramble, Rubus 'Benenden', which makes giant strides, has arching branches, prettily lobed leaves and is covered in white flowers. It will never make a dense screen, but it will grow phenomenally high and wide in a couple of summers.

(Photograph omitted)

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