Nearly all the many species and varieties of ceanothus came originally from California, hence ‘Californian lilac’, and most of them show clearly that they prefer the Californian climate to that in Europe. Ceanothus is divided into two groups, the evergreen and the deciduous. The deciduous species are a little tougher and have larger leaves and looser clusters of the famous blue. C. ‘Gloire de Versailles’, with its large panicles of powder-blue flowers in summer and autumn, is one of the best blue-flowered shrubs for gardens. Another good one from the same group is C. Topaz’, summer flowering, with light indigo-blue flowers. All plants like the full sun and a well-drained which can even contain a little lime. Deciduous ceanothus can be cut back to within 15cm (6in) of the previous year’s growth in about February or March. Some species have white or pink flowers and of these the pink C. ‘Marie Simon’ is to be recommended.
The popularity of this shrub is indicated by the number of its names. It is called cydonia or japonica and its fruit is quince. It is easy to grow, tolerant of any soil and situation. It will grow well against a wall or fence and as a specimen or in a border, producing large, saucer-shaped flowers, red, orange and white in spring, to be followed by large yellow quinces. The most numerous and probably the best of the quinces originate with two species, C. speciosa and C. superba. Each of which provides us with 20 or so good varieties. Among varieties of C. speciosa we find, for example. ‘Cardinalis’. Crimson scarlet; ‘Phylis Moore’, almond-pink, semi-double; ‘Rubra grandiflora’, with low, sprawling habit, crimson and extra large; and ‘Simonii’, blood-red, flat, semi-double, with a dwarf habit, and among the C. superba varieties, slightly smaller but very vigorous. Perhaps the best is ‘Knap Hill Scarlet’.
There is less choice here, for this genus has only one species, C. praecox. The winter sweet, as it is popularly known, is a favourite because its flowers are so sweetly perfumed and appear on the plants in winter before the leaves. It makes a medium-size shrub which grows well in any type of soil including chalk. It will grow as a specimen or in a border, but does best with the protection of a wall, which helps to ripen the wood for the production of the flowers. C. praecox takes a little while to produce its pale, waxy, yellow flowers, purple stained in the centre, but once started it will flower every year. C.p. ‘Grandiflorus’ has deeper yellow flowers stained with red and C.p. ‘Luteus’ has larger blooms.
A relative of the witch hazel, corylopsis is neither as well known nor as frequently grown as it deserves. It is easy and tolerant, though perhaps a little susceptible to frost damage and so requiring a certain amount of shelter or protection during winter. The hanging racemes of fragrant yellow flowers appear before the leaves in early spring. A good species is C. pauciflora. Which will grow to about 2m (6ft) in time, with large leaves, pink when newly unfolding, and early primrose-yellow scented flowers. More upright growing is C. veitchiana, which has large racemes of flowers, primrose-yellow again but with noticeably brick-red anthers. One of the tallest is C. willmottiae which can reach 3m (10ft). It has erect branches and the tassels of yellow flowers are 7cm (3in) long with a strong scent.
Small shrubs with perfumed flowers, white, pink to purple, these are sometimes difficult to establish in the garden, needing a good loamy soil, moisture at the roots and a site in the sun or perhaps the lightest of shade. There are a number of species, among which is D. cneorum, dwarf, about 50cm (19in), known as the garland flower because of the clusters of fragrant rose-pink blooms that appear on the branches in spring. There are several varieties, two of which. D.c. ‘Eximia’ and D.c. ‘Pygmaea’, are prostrate, with branches growing flat on the soil. Called by some the ‘mezereon’, a little taller and a little easier to grow, D. mezereum flowers in February and March, with purple-red flowers. It will grow in chalk. Among its varieties are D.m. ‘Alba’, with white flowers; D.m. ‘Grandiflora’ with larger flowers beginning to open in autumn and D.m. ‘Rosea’ with large, rose-pink blooms. D. odora ‘Aureo marginata’ is a hardy form, much appreciated for its sweet perfume in winter. It needs a sunny, sheltered position. Because daphne transplant badly, it is wise to buy container-grown plants.
A rich source of small, decorative, easily grown flowering shrubs with a wide choice of modern varieties, most of these grow no more than 2m (6ft) tall and all are clothed in neat green leaves and abundantly decorated with white to pink and purple flowers. D. ‘Magicien’, with large mauve-pink flowers edged with white and with purple undersides is worth growing, as is D. longiflora ‘Veitchii’, with its large clusters of lilac-pink flowers in June and July. A larger, taller form is presented by D. scabra and its varieties D.s. ‘Candidissima’, with double flowers, pure white, and D.s. ‘Macrocephala’ has large white bell-shaped flowers. It is helpful with the deutzias to thin out and cut right back all flowering shoots almost to the old wood immediately after they have bloomed. D. rosea has broad white or pink blooms.
The witch hazels are much loved, mainly because of the strongly perfumed flowers that brave the winter cold and appear on bare branches from December through to about March. The curious shape of the slim petals can produce flowers which measure between 2-3 cm (½-1in) across. Best of all the witch hazels are those from China, H. mollis, making large shrubs with clusters of great golden-yellow, sweetly perfumed, wide-petalled flowers from December to March. The large, round, hairy leaves turn an attractive yellow in autumn. There are a number of varieties, all with large, strongly scented flowers, most of them tinged with red or orange. The exception is H. mollis ‘Pallida’, which has sulphur-yellow flowers, sweetly and strongly scented, crowded in clusters along the naked stems. In autumn the shrub turns yellow. Plants prefer an acid soil and like to be in sun or light shade.
Called mock orange, possibly because of the perfume, and also erroneously called syringa, this nevertheless remains one of our finest garden shrubs because it gives a marvellous performance with the least possible demands. It will grow in any soil under any conditions, yet grown under good conditions in a spot with space, good soil, plenty of sun and air. It will perform like the star it undoubtedly is. The June and July flowers are normally white and strongly perfumed. The shrub grows between 1-2m (3-61ft) under normal conditions. One species, P. coronarius, a small shrub with creamy-white perfumed flowers, is said to be particularly easy to grow on dry soils. Of its two varieties, P.c. ‘Aureus’ has bright yellow leaves when young and those of P.c. ‘Variegatus’ have a creamy-white margin. P. ‘Erectus’ is an upright shrub, highly floriferous and richly scented. Smaller, more compact, growing to less than lm (3ft), is P. ‘Manteau d’Hermine’ with fragrant, creamy-white double flowers, while much the same size is P. ‘Sybille’, with single, almost square purple-stained, orange-scented blooms. But perhaps the best double flowered cultivar is still P. ‘Virginal’, growing to nearly 3m (10ft), bearing heavily perfumed flowers a full 5cm (2in) across.
Hardy, growing easily in any soil, accepting sun or light shade, the potentilla produces flowers like small, single, white or orange-yellow, sometimes beginning in June and sometimes ending in November. The main species is P. fruticosa and there are so many varieties that it is difficult to recommend choices, but among those that have achieved awards are the following: P.f. ‘Grandiflora’ with large, canary yellow flowers; P.f. ‘Katherine Dykes’, primrose-yellow flowers; P.f. ‘Mandshurica’, dwarf, low-growing, white flowers; P.f. ‘Harviflora’, with an abundance of yellow flowers; and P.f. ‘Vilmoriniana’, erect, up to 2m (6ft), with silvery leaves and creamy flowers.
The prunus family is so heavily represented among the flowering trees that it is surprising to find riches in the shrubby section, all moderately easy to grow and flourishing in sun or light shade on most garden soils. Among the deciduous species there is the interesting and rewarding dwarf Russian almond, about lm (3ft) tall, making little thickets of slim stems, advancing by suckers, producing saw-toothed leaves and semi-double red flowers in April. This is P. tenella ‘Fire Hill’ and it likes to be planted in full sun. P. glandulosa ‘Albiplena’ again makes a rounded and twiggy bush lm (3ft) tall, but in this case with a mass of miniature double white flowers. Exactly the same but with tiny bright pink flowers is P.g. ‘Sinensis’. P. triloba ‘Multiplex ‘ grows quite differently as a broad shrub nearly 2m (6ft) tall, producing its double pink flowers in March before the leaves open.
Known as the stag’s hornfrom the almost furry terminal sections of the branching stems, is grown mainly for its foliage, a rich and glowing orange and red in autumn. The flowers are insignificant but in some species these are followed by fruits of the female plants, crimson and small. R. typhina is the species most frequently grown and this makes a wide, spreading shrub with thick branches covered at the tips with reddish-brown hairs. Green clusters of flowers appear on the male plant and smaller groups on the female ( ‘Laciniata’) which also bears the dense, conical clusters of hairy red fruits. This rhus is invasive and will send up suckers in the soil around the area in which it grows. These suckers can be separated and used as new plants, they can be cut clown to ground level, or they can be killed chemically, but should not just be ignored unless a whole thicket is required. Branches are best pruned almost to the ground in February.
This group of spring-flowering shrubs appears to be known only from R. sanguineum, the popular, which is a pity, for there are others that are well worth growing, such as R. odoratum, the buffalo currant, smallish, erect, with shining green leaves which colour dramatically in autumn. Loose racemes of golden yellow flowers, clove scented, appear in April, followed by black berries. There is also R. speciosum from California, which produces clusters of rich, red blooms almost like in April and May. This species is perhaps slightly tender and could do with some protection. The flowering currant itself, R. sanguineum, is a medium-sized shrub with flowers from white to a deep crimson, single or double. Plants will grow in any soil, in sun or shade, and it is helpful to cut back shoots after flowering.
This is a quick-growing, wide-ranging shrub that is easy to grow under almost any circumstances and will perform with grace and beauty in the shrub border, as a specimen or even as a hedge. Generally the spring-flowering types produce white flowers and the summer-flowering pink to red. To keep performance at its best, cut out weak and old stems of the spring-flowering types when the flowers have faded and prune the summer-flowering varieties in about March almost down to ground level. Best known of the spring-flowering types is probably S. arguta. Called bridal wreath and foam of May. Medium-sized, dense growing, with snow-white flowers in small clusters all along the stems in April and May. There is also S. nipponica ‘Snowmound’, which does indeed make a mound about 50cm (19in) tall, with small white flowers smothering the branches. In the summer-flowering group look for S. bwnalda ‘Anthony Waterer. Which makes a low. Twiggy shrub with upright stems reaching nearly 1m (3ft). The flowers form large, flat clusters made up of many tiny carmine flowers opening in July to September.
A large and highly rewarding genus of shrubs which can be used in several ways in the garden. All are hardy. Easy to grow and will flourish in almost any soil. For convenience they can be divided into three separate groups: those that bloom in winter, the spring-flowering group and those that are grown for their berries or winter leaf colour. Earliest to flower is V. farreri (previously known as V. fragmns) which opens its pale pink buds in November to produce tight clusters of perfumed white flowers which go on to February, although even this is beaten sometimes by V. bodnantense. Which in a helpful season can produce larger flowers earlier and longer lasting. In the spring-flowering group V. carlesii makes a neat, rounded, medium-sized bush with white flowers, sweetly scented. The popular snowball tree, V. opulus ‘Sterile’, makes a dense shrub about 2m (6ft) tall and wide; its snowball flowers appear first as a small, tight, green ball and then open to its familiar size and colour. ‘Grandiflorum’ is rather larger. Two indigenous members bring autumn colour. They are V. lantana, the wayfaring tree, with white flowers in June followed by red berries turning black. And V. opulus, the Guelder rose, again having white flowers in June but with red berries and vivid orange and red foliage.
A small shrub which will make itself at home almost anywhere but needs a good, rich soil. The abundant flowers appear mainly in June, usually in tones of reds and pinks. The best form is probably W. florida ‘Variegata’. Slow growing to just over 1m (3ft), with pretty green leaves variegated with creamy-yellow margins and with pale pink perfumed flowers. Prune all plants right back in winter.