Anything that blooms in winter is worth its weight in gold. Although the garden is still in its infancy I have been planting for the dark months of the year. My Viburnum x bodnantense is getting established and my two witch hazels look as though they are going to make it. I still have to take the plunge and decide where to put my chimonanthus. It has been in a pot for two years now and is not liking my indecision. I need to find the sunniest, warmest place I can for it if it is to bloom but whenever I go out it is always so windy and cold that I can’t decide where is best. If it were more attractive in leaf I could justify a place near the house. When in my teens I planted one in my parent’s garden but my late father would cut it to ground level every spring thinking it was a hardy fuchsia and it never bloomed, finally giving up the struggle. Yet those strawy yellow, waxy textured flowers have a scent that is so divine that I must have it – just where to plant it!
The same is true of my latest purchase; Correa pulchella. At least that is what it is labelled as. I am not sure if it is C. pulchella since that is supposed to have orange blooms and mine is a beautiful pink. It is native to coastal areas of south east Australia where it grows on alkaline soils. Correas (there are 11 species) are often called Australian fuchsias, a very apt common name since they are from Australia and the flowers do look a bit like fuchsias – at least they have four petals and hang down, like most, but not all, fuchsias. They are in the rutaceae, which is an interesting family that includes citrus, skimmia and rue and correas have pairs of leaves along the stems and are generally twiggy, evergreens that will survive outside in this part of the world if planted in well-drained soil in full sun. They make natural companions for woody herbs and silver-leaved plants. The most reliable is probably C. backhousiana with buff-coloured blooms from late autumn to late spring and although not the most showy it is a lovely thing to have in winter. I have experimented with several over the years, usually planted in raised beds or against sunny walls and they survived most winters in the East Midlands of the UK. I think they will do well here if the soil is not soggy. Unlike chimonanthus, correas look good all year, with neat and attractive leaves. ‘Dusky Bells’ has been waiting in a pot to be planted out and both will go into raised beds now that I have the compost to improve the soil and the sleepers to make the beds. Correas also make good plants for pots and I really could do worse than put them in pots for a year so I can have them by the sunny side of the house for colour next winter before committing myself.