Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Shrubs Love It When You Treat Them Rough; Give Them a Good Clip Each Year and They'll Come Back for More

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Shrubs Love It When You Treat Them Rough; Give Them a Good Clip Each Year and They'll Come Back for More

Article excerpt

Byline: Pattie Barron

FOR THE time-poor gardener wanting a lot of flowers for little input, shrubs are the solution. Plant half a dozen flowering shrubs in the border or in containers and summer is sorted. Bypass the seductive but high-maintenance perennials at the garden centre and, instead, choose the trouble-free, long-flowering options that merely need a sharp pair of secateurs and an annual spring feed to keep them in great shape.

For example, if you want the effect of hollyhocks without the high-maintenance palaver and threat of rust, grow Lavatera x clementii Barnsley.

The flowers of palest pink are similar and bloom generously from midsummer to autumn. All you need do to prevent enthusiastic lavatera from outgrowing its welcome is to cut the stems back hard in spring.

Some shrubs are so beautiful that you can forgive their brief flowering. Lilac is typical, representing the speed with which spring segues into summer, but if you don't mind breaking with tradition -- and want a small plant, not a large tree -- try compact lilac Syringa Bloomerang Dark Purple. After its first springtime flush, it blooms intermittently until mid-autumn, so you can enjoy those purple-pink scented flowers for months, not days.

Full-on fuchsias aren't everyone's choice, but elegant Fuchsia magellanica var molinae is far removed from the more usual pink and purple trouper. Delicate-looking, long flowers of two-tone shell pink appear from midsummer until early autumn and belie a tough disposition. Just cut right back to the hardwood in early spring for a glorious repeat performance. If you're looking for an evergreen to give year-round structure, why not have one that produces beautiful blooms, too. Sheltered, warm, town gardens suit Pittosporum tobira perfectly. From late spring to midsummer, waxy white flowers smother the rounded, deep green leaves and their mock orange blossom perfume is sublime. Variety Nanum is a smaller, rounded version that makes a great container plant. …

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