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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Jo Newton a Garden Designer who runs her own business

My Top 5 Flowering Shrubs

Now that we’re halfway through spring and many of the plants have come up in our gardens, we’re finding ourselves reviewing what’s there and what isn’t. Spring bulbs have been putting on their cheerful show, and we’re looking forward to the summer bulbs and corms. Hardy perennials are emerging into life with all their promise of greenery and colour throughout the coming months. But we may find that some plants haven’t survived and that we have ‘gaps’. Some of these spaces may be best filled with shrubs, giving you that backbone, height and structure that a garden needs.
Difficult though it is because there is so much choice, I’ve come up with my top 5 flowering shrubs that would suit most gardens and very importantly, between them, will provide interest all year round.

  1. Viburnum tinus: There are quite a lot of Viburnums but ‘tinus’ is one of the evergreen varieties with mid-deep green glossy leaves (see pictured). Perhaps its main attraction is its flowers which last right through from December to April, and what’s more, bees and hoverflies love them! After flowering it develops bunches of blue-black berries. It’s a medium-sized shrub which would suit the middle of a border, or perhaps to the back if you don’t want large plants, and is happy both in sun and part shade. Its weak spot is, like other Viburnums, Viburnum beetle, so if you notice brown notches or patches on leaves, remove them promptly and get rid of all fallen leaves. Other than that Viburnum tinus is a beautiful, good all-rounder shrub which keeps giving.
  2. Lavandula angustifolia: I can’t imagine a garden without some lavender! Within this fully hardy group are the well-known ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ varieties much more capable of surviving our UK Climate than the French lavenders – at least that’s true here in the northwest of England. Many of us enjoy the smell of lavender as we brush past, and bees and other pollinating insects enjoy the flowers which can last from July to September.
  3. Mahonia x media ‘Charity’: Another evergreen shrub, this time with spiky, holly-like leaves and yellow flower-spikes which attract bees and insects (there’s a theme developing here!). They have a beautiful scent –in fact, this winter on a lockdown walk I smelt a Mahonia in a garden we passed before I saw it. Such a pleasure in the middle of winter, this and some of the other Mahonias flower from November to March. They’re taller than Viburnum tinus and can be grown in shade so they’re great plants for something architectural at the back of a shady border.
  4. Weigela ‘Florida Variegata’: I’ve chosen this shrub because it is quite different from the others in my list. It is deciduous with variegated foliage, has pretty pink flowers and has a bushy but fairly tall habit with arching stems. The leaves which are grey-green with white edges can really brighten up a border, as do other variegated plants. The pale pink funnel-shaped flowers are quite profuse and can last from May to June, and sometimes beyond. Weigela grows easily on most soils, and once it has reached the height you want it responds well to pruning after flowering (probably to about half its height).
  5. Fothergilla major (Mountain witch alder): I’ve saved this special shrub till last as it’s one of my favourite finds (see pictured)! It is deciduous and very slow-growing but has some wonderful features. As the leaves appear in late spring, so also do the unusual bottle-brush-like white flowers which stay through to mid-summer. The leaves, which in summer resemble the shape and green of Hazel leaves, turn in autumn into a plethora of reds, oranges and yellows which I think are quite unique. We gained so much pleasure last year from watching these changes which lasted at least four to five weeks! Fothergilla thrives on acid soil and its colours are at their best in full sun but partial shade is ok too. If your garden is on alkaline soil, you could plant this shrub in ericaceous soil in a container, as you can with rhododendrons and other acid-loving plants.
    So I hope that my list here of flowering shrubs is helpful and has given you pointers to some beautiful plants that will add structure and interest to your garden all-year round. And I wish you a full and enjoyable growing year!

For more information please visit my website http://jogrowsgardens.com

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