Starting a New Year, and some tendencies to tackle, I think. One tendency is certainly a kind of plant snobbery. I have a yen to always find something different, off-beat, not yet tried by me, and in this hunt for the different and the new, I realise that I can often overlook the really good plant that is not exceptional or unusual, but just does a good job where it is. Even the phrasing of ‘just does a good job’ seems to somehow denigrate. I admit it. But this year, I am going to outface this tendency as being, frankly, silly- not to mention more than a bit snobby.
The good old Japanese anemone (see above) is one such plant. For me this plant grows not only where you might expect, moist, sun and goodish soil, but also, it has stuck itself in one of the hottest, driest parts of the garden, and, albeit, a little stunted in comparison with it’s more well-off neighbour, it still flowers nonstop for more than two months and the foliage looks great even if in baking heat. Hitherto, I have only had the pink, but now, I have been given bits of the white- and so, it is getting the recognition it deserves.
I have a tricky area right in front of the house. A very old and grotty spiraea has given up and been strangled by bramble, and I have one or two other shrubs that have never got beyond their first year. Two reasons mainly- first, it is soaking wet in the winter and then bone-dry in the summer, and secondly, despite my attempting to protect them with stakes, they have been mown down twice or three times by us or a helpful housesitter. All in all, they have thrown in the towel. And, I frankly admit, owing to the snobbery problem, I have refused to look again at spiraea.
But this is plainly ridiculous. What I need is a tough, good-looking shrub that flowers well at some point, and arches nicely but doesn’t grow too tall and annoy the shutters or windows- so 1.5m height is about the max. Spiraea, particularly Spiraea cinerea Grefsheim seems to utterly fit the bill. Early Spring flowering, and drought-tolerant according to all the sources I have found, and the perfect size- so this is what it will be. This variety is a sort of baby version of the Bridal Wreath spiraea which needs more space than I have, so it comes with good parentage. The right plant for the right place, as Beth Chatto would say, and only a trace of snobbery.
Europop not being my thing, the mere mention of ‘Una Paloma blanca’ is enough to make me cringe- but look, this is the name of a very interesting, well to me, variety of Euonymus, which is a good doer in many situations for me- notably sun and dry. It is a small, fat upright shaped euonymus, Euonymus japonicus ‘Paloma Blanca’, which for 9 months of the year is a deep, glossy, emerald green and so does very good shaping in the garden. But, for 2-3 months, the new Spring growth is a startling, brilliant white until it turns green… sounds a bit naff? Maybe, but it has stuck in my mind and finding 3 small plants this week in a post-New Year forage at a nursery in the Gers, the Embalogue at Mirande, was enough for me to cave in. So, tres Paloma Blanca it is.