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Knoll Gardens

Shrubs Looking Good in the Garden

Last nights three quarters of an inch of rain (in about 20 minutes!), has certainly freshened things up and this morning as I walked around the garden I was reminded of just how wonderful some of the woody plants and shrubs can be at this time of year.

Take for example our rather fabulous specimen of Eucryphia Nymansay (above and below), which at something over twenty foot now towers above the more recent plantings. It was struggling a little with increasing competition from the neighbouring eucalyptus trees but as the nearest four of these trees suffered wind rock this winter and had to be removed the eucryphia now has much more space and light and is showing its approval!

Hydangeas really rather come into their own during high summer and our plant of Hydrangea sargentiana (below), just has to be one of my all time favourites with its winning combination of large rough-ish to the touch leaves and flowers of purplish blue and white that never fail to draw comment. We had to move ours this winter as it was overgrowing a path and so while seemingly happy its performance is a little subdued this year while it re establishes its root system in its spacious new home.

It is planted next to some jo pye weed, Eupatorium Atropurpureum, and a little distance in front a most distinctive purple leaved small tree which rejoices in the name of Catalpa x erubescens Purpurea (below). Much as I love the Catalpas and Paulownias for their wonderful foliage and occasional flowers we dont really have enough room here at Knoll for them to attain their full size so we pollard them on a regular basis which produces much larger foliage than you would normally expect to see.

Not only does this keep the plants within the bounds of the space we have to grow them they produce quite wonderful foliage which can contrast so effectively with the other plants around them. Some, such as the Paulownia fargesi (below), we pollard every year but others such as the slower growing Puple Catalpa we might only pollard every other year. As with all pruning it really depends on how the plants react and the effect you are trying to achieve.

Going back to hydrangeas, while there is such a vast range of shape, form and colour to be chosen from I find myself always going back to the oak leaved hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia (above), which is so named because its leaves look rather like an, admittedly rather larger than usual, oak leaf. Not only is the foliage striking during the season and the flowers rather wonderful, but come autumn the leaves will gradually turn the most sumptuous deep red which makes this plant an all round must have!

Not to be outdone Hydrangea Annabelle (above), produces such large very rounded heads of papery white flowers that the stems can quite literally droop under the weight of the flower. We planted a group of these hydrangeas in the new spring garden which is nearly always in at least dappled shade; conditions that hydrangeas are mostly very happy with providing it is not too dry for too long.

Planted at the same time a little distance from the Annabelles is a not too often seen large ish evergreen shrub, Itea ilicifolia (above), whose long racemes of catkin like flowers while perhaps understated are quite beautiful. They are also delicately scented and this is the first year when I have noticed the scent when passing by. I am hoping it will make quite a large shrub with time and then we will be able to enjoy a veritable waterfall of flower at this time of year.

Although with last nights rain we have had a respite from the hot and dry weather for the moment our sandy soil and rain shadow location means the garden, and its plants, can bake during prolonged hot weather such as we have seen over the last few weeks. Not all plants are happy in such conditions but there is no doubt that the heat and drought intensifies the bark colourations of the eucalyptus and of course the amazing cinnamon barked myrtle, Luma apiculata (below). Not content with just one flowering a season I have know this shrub to flower three times in one year; much to the delight of the bees and myself alike.

One shrub I really would not want to be without is Rosa glauca (below). I find this shrub quite fascinating and whatever the time of year it seems to have something to offer; even in winter its purple stems and reddish buds seem quietly beautiful. I love it principally for its purple foliage and of course for best colour, and like most roses, it needs a sunny position. Interestingly if grown in light shade the foliage will actually take on a paler bluish tint as you can see from the picture below which only adds to the qualities of this magnificent plant as far as I am concerned.