Yesterday I mentioned my shopping trip to find something to plant in shade. I was hoping to find some azaleas but in the end I decided to buy some Lonicera nitida. Now I know this is not the most exciting of shrubs and it is most commonly used as a quick and effective hedge, if kept below 1.2m high. When I was a child we had a lonicera hedge and it was a nuisance that it had to be trimmed three times a year to keep it tidy but its dense, tiny foliage and springy habit made it ideal to lean bicycles against and it accomodated leaning kids too. When it did get rather tired it could be hacked down to near the base in spring and would be almost fully grown by the end of summer.
What I especially liked were the tiny, round, translucent purple berries but they were never produced freely enough to make any real show. I would have thought that this is a feature that plant breeders could have enhanced. Maybe they have tried but it has not been very effective. Anyway, apart from the plain species and the golden ‘Baggesens Gold’ that I have written about before, there are others.
At the back of the house, where we have been laying paving and the summer house will be built – eventually, there is a long border beside some block paving. Along the edge I have planted pachysandra. This area gets some sun in summer but as the sun drops in the sky after June it is increasingly gloomy so the plants have to cope with shade, though it is not the dry shade found under trees. I want the planting here to be simple and easy to maintain. I want textures and plants that look good all year -the very opposite of what I usually want. My original plan for the whole area was a series of evergreen hedges, one behind the other, clipped at different height and in waves, but my need to start planting interesting things put paid to that. So my evergreens are a scaled-down version.
I found two interesting lonicera and bought some of each, planted alternately so I can clip them into an undulating line. I could have used just one but I can’t resist trying as many plants as possible.
First is Garden Clouds ‘Purple Storm’. Plant names are beginning to get a bit silly but at least there are three in the Garden Clouds series, all with similar credentials. There is copper-tinted ‘Copper Glow’, green ‘Green Breeze’ and – guess what – purple ‘Purple Cloud’. All reach about 90cm high and 60cm wide. They are being marketed as an alternative to box (boxwood). The young foliage is distinctly purple and it matures to dark, glossy green. It seems to be very compact and short-jointed. If it blooms well I will be very happy but, as it is, it will make a good contrast to the pachysandra.
The other is ‘Red Tips’ which is larger, at 1.5m, and the young growth is less intense. The growth is less compact too, though, of course, most people will trim these plants.
Between these and the next block of planting will be a small lawn, edged with paving and in front of the summer house I am planting a row of Hydrangea paniculata. This area will get sun for most of the year, only shaded in the depths of winter. The Summer house is open-fronted and I want something as colourful as possible for a long season, but not too tall. Succumbing to this aberrant need for neatness – I don’t want to see a bed that needs weeding when we finally get the area finished and have somewhere to sit – I have chosen the cultivar ‘Bobo’. ‘Bobo’ is Belgian in origin and is very free flowering, with lacy cones of flowers that start creamy green, open white and age to pink. Like all its kind it is much hardier than H. macrophylla and the couple I have in the garden at present have all done well. ‘Bobo’ is relatively new and is shorter than most, reaching about 90cm. Mine are still to be planted but they are already starting to bloom.