Trees and Other Plants
July / December interest
One of the nicest gifts
you can give for a birth, wedding or other anniversary is a
tree or shrub that will flower or "do its thing" at
the time of the event each year.
Special plants. There's
a chance that in your garden, you will have a "special
plant". It won't be the most beautiful plant you have
it won't be the most admired or "hardworking"
in terms of always looking good at a particular time of year.
It will be a plant that has a particular memory for you.
- Indian Bean Tree.
fine tree with especially large leaves. Reckoned in
some books to only grow in the south of the country, but
I know of several in Cambridgeshire that are doing well.
The leaves come out quite late in the season and in the
species are shortly followed by large white flowers followed
by slender seed pods that give the tree it's common
name. A particularly handsome cultivar is "Aurea"
that has bright yellow foliage, bronze when first out, though
with less of a display of flowers. Spreading habit to 50ft
tall and wide, 30ft in each direction for
Buy Catalpa bignoides
Catalpa bignoides aurea
large group of familiar shrubs with large panicles
of blue, white or pink flowers. The blue and pink forms
can be affected by soil pH. Acid soils of less than 5.5
give blue flowers, and pH above this give pink flowers,
if the pH is borderline it may be possible to change the
colour by using a commercial blueing compound. Methods such
as driving a large rusty nail into the soil are also supposed
to work, though it also depends on what the soil is like
as whether or not such methods tip the balance. White varieties
are not affected by soil pH. Available in many cultivars,
size varies correspondingly, generally from 3-5ft high and
across for H. macrophylla
(the most often seen varieties) to 8ft high and across for
species types such as H.
seen varieties are not always to everyone's taste because
of the large showy flower heads. Try the more delicate "lace
cap" varieties instead which are utterly charming,
Oak Leaved Hydrangea,
that has oak shaped leaves up to 8" long - a bit more
fussy about soil though.
Love You Kiss
Hydrangea paniculata Limelight
Hydrangea Red Ace
A couple of years ago I was asked by a
teacher to devise a planting scheme that was at its peak in
August as that's when she got to spend the most time in
the garden. It was surprisingly difficult (especially so as
she didn't want any whites or pastel colours) as the majority
of plants flower before or after mid-summer. As you go out and
about, you'll see plenty of flower colour, but it's
nearly all half hardy annuals or half hardy perennials that
have been planted in containers or as seasonal bedding plants.
Hardy perennials and shrubs in the main don't like to flower
large group of shrubs and perennials with large showy blooms,
the most exotic of which unfortunately require minimum temperatures
of 5-15C. There are however several varieties that will
grow well in this country and will flower well if given
a place in full sun. Flowers in a variety of colours, white,
pink, red, blue often with contrasting centres. To about
6ft high and wide.
Double flowered white
Double flowered pink
White and red
or try here
- Bull bay, Evergreen magnolia.
dense evergreen tree with large glossy leaves with paler
green or rusty coloured hairs to the undersides. Huge creamy
white flowers up to 10" across are produced from July
through to the first frosts. Available in several varieties
that grow to medium to largish tress.
to 20ft high and wide, others up to 60ft high and 50ft wide
(eventually, but probably not in your life-time!).
Buy Magonolia grandiflora
ramosissima - Tamarisk.
graceful deciduous shrub to small tree with attractive feathery
foliage and pink flowers borne in dense racemes on the current
years shoots. Often recommended for coastal areas where
they cope very well in sandy soil and are resilient to salt
spray. They also cope well with marshy soil being surprisingly
resistant to waterlogged conditions. Height and spread to
- Crab apples
fruits, and frequently good leaf colours too.
- Tree poppy.
subshrubby perennial rather than a true shrub. Grown
for attractive glaucous foliage and large fragrant showy
white flowers that are up to 5" across of ruffled white
petals with a large group of prominent yellow stamens in
the middle. Needs some protection, shelter from strong cold
winds and grow against a sunny wall if at all possible.
Sometimes difficult to establish, but once way should be
fine. Height to 3-8ft depending on how happy it is, spread
depends on how far you'll let it sucker as it goes.
Sounds difficult, but actually is magnificent.
Buy Romneya / tree poppy
all varieties have autumn colourations, try;
- paper bark maple,
see entry on this page.
full moon maple to 30ft high and wide. The Japanese Maples,
also produce some good autumn colours, especially.
A. palmatum "Osakazuki"
which turns a fiery scarlet,
slow growing eventually to 12ft tall and 6ft wide.
Buy Acer / Maple
styraciflua - Sweet Gum.
of the best trees for autumn colour, place in full sun as
a feature for best effect, against an evergreen background
if at all possible. The species grows very large to 80ft
tall and 40ft wide, and is well worth having if you have
the space! There are several slower growing smaller cultivars
such as "Golden Treasure"
both to 30ft high and 20ft wide.
Buy Liquidambar / sweet gum
Attractive colourful fruits, and frequently good leaf colours
Vitis coignetiae -
Crimson glory vine.
of my favourite climbers this one, large bright green heavily
textured leaves up to 12" across whose autumn colours
earn it its common name. A vigorous and large plant
that will grow to 50ft if given space in a mature tree,
alternatively grow it up and over a pergola to give summer
shade and autumn fireworks.
Buy Vitis coignetiae
Buy Vitis coignetiae 2
Little active growth, particularly after
the first frosts, Features that are most prominent at this time
of year are evergreens, and plants grown for their bark colouration.
Viburnum bodnantense "Dawn"
of the small but very useful group of plants that produce
scented flowers in the depths (or nearly the depths) of
winter. Bunches of fragrant pink blooms on leafless stems.
Grow near to a path that you are likely to use frequently
as otherwise you won't appreciate the scent at a time
of year when you're less inclined to go down a damp
cold garden to smell it. Height to 10ft by 6ft wide, but
can be pruned to keep the scented flowers down at nose level.
Buy Viburnum Dawn
Buy Viburnum Dawn 2
Little active growth. Features that
are most prominent at this time of year are evergreens, and
plants grown for their bark colouration.
Ilex J.C. van
tol - Holly
are a great many varieties of holly available, but unfortunately
none of them do exactly what we require from a holly on
their own. i.e. have the traditional deep green spiky leaves
and be reliably covered in bright red berries at Christmas.
are monoeiceous, a plant is either male or female but not
both (unlike most plants) and therefore you need at least
two to get the berries. Of these two, one will be male and
so have no berries. J.C.
van tol however is reliably
self-fertile and the closest to a perfect holly that we
have, the draw-back - or not depending on how you see it
- is that the leaves are deep green, but smooth without
the traditional spikes. To 20ft tall by 12ft wide, like
all hollies, fairly slow growing.
I. aquifolium " J.C. van
Winter interest. Bark or evergreen
Most prominent mainly from around November
when the leaves fall off until March when they start growing
- snake bark maple
tree grown for the winter colour of the bark which is green
with white or pale marking that snake up the trunk and the
branches. Red winter shoots which add to the decorative
effect. Suitable for most situations. Spreading habit to
30ft by 20ft eventually.
Buy Acer / snake bark maple
- paper bark maple.
growing spreading tree with red-brown to orange bark that
flakes off in paper thin sheets giving an attractive shaggy
effect especially during the winter months. Bright autumn
foliage colour too. Suitable for most situations. Spreading
habit to 30ft by 20ft eventually.
Buy Acer / paper bark maple
Birches - Betula spp. T
birches are admirable trees for small gardens, some types
can grow tall (eventually to 50ft or more), but they tend
not to spread very far and have an open canopy that gives
a dappled shade, a lovely effect. They need an open sunny
The native silver
birch Betula pendula
is a popular choice, but the bark is rather rough and splits
with dark patches forming with age, go for named cultivars
such as "Dalicarlica"
if you can find them. I prefer the
Himalayan birch, Betula utilis "jacquemontii"
(usually sold as Betula
jacquemontii) or the paper
birch, Betula papyrifera.
Both have a smoother, brighter bark than the native species
and are fairly easy to find.
If you have more
space, birches can be planted as a triangular group of 3
about 3 feet apart. You tend to get a similar sized canopy
as if a single tree was on its own, but 3 times the trunks
and bark which is the main feature.
Buy Betula / Birch
Corylus avellana "contorta"
- corkscrew hazel.
variety of the native hazel tree with strongly twisted shoots
that are particularly effective in winter and frequently
seen in flower arrangements. To 20ft by 20ft.
Buy Corylus / corkscrew hazel
or try here
Ilex aquifolium "Ferox argentea" - hedgehog
unusual variegated holly - green leaves edged with cream
- that has spines on the surface of the leaves as well as
around the edges. Slow growing, colours best in a sunny
position. Eventually gets to 25ft high by 12ft wide, but
easily trimmed to less.
Buy hedgehog holly
Prunus serrula - sometimes also called
Deciduous tree with peeling mahogany coloured bark that
extends along all branches and shines like it's just
been polished. Flowers in the spring as a bonus and the
leaves turn yellow in autumn before falling off. One of
the best trees for winter bark colour. Grows to 30ft high
Buy Prunus serrula / tibetica