To follow on from my last blog in December, I want to highlight five choice winter flowering shrubs that I have constantly admired over the eleven years I've been working at Trebah.
Christmas Box is the common name for Sarcococca confusa (AGM) - this is slightly confusing as it usually flowers from mid January through to February, so I prefer the name Sweet Box that refers to its captivatingly fragrant flowers. The tiny creamy-white flowers release a powerful and pervasive scent, which can carry for quite some distance and as you approach Alice's Seat where we have a massed planting, the perfume leads you to the plants.
Sweet Box comes from Western China and the earliest known date of cultivation in western gardens is 1917. It will grow in partial to deep shade, so it is an ideal candidate for under trees. It is an evergreen with glossy deep green leaves and spreads slowly by suckering, forming excellent groundcover in the long term.
As you enter the garden from the Visitor Centre, look for the dainty pale-yellow bell-shaped flowers of Correa backhousiana (AGM). Every year, without fail, it blooms throughout autumn, winter and spring. It was brought from Tasmania by the Victorians for growing in conservatories and is known as Australian Fuchsia (although it is not directly related to fuchsia). It grows outside happily in Cornwall in full sun with good drainage and will tolerate winter temperatures down to approx 10 degrees C.
Hamamelis mollis (AGM) has a reputation for its healing powers which possibly gave the plant its common name of 'witch hazel'. The flowers, borne in conspicuous clusters in February, are extremely fragrant with a sweet and spicy smell and resemble lemon peel or curled ribbons. The petals are deep golden yellow and curl up in cold weather.
The large planting of Acacia pravissima at the bottom of the main lawn cannot fail to catch your attention as it bursts into bloom in February and March. These were planted around twenty years ago and the coppicing carried out over the years may have prolonged their lifespan. The profuse display of fragrant (once again!) bright golden yellow spherical fluffy flower heads is offset perfectly by the triangular grey-green leaves.
I've lost count of the number of times we've had to prune back the Grevillea rosmarinifolia growing on the raised bed outside the Visitor Centre, to reveal the sign on the wall underneath. This lovely Australian shrub carries its buds and elegant curly pink/red flowers throughout the autumn, winter and spring. The needle-like foliage is grey green, very similar to Rosemary, to which its species name refers. I cannot recommend it highly enough for a sunny well-drained position.
(AGM Award of Garden Merit given by the RHS)
By Nicky Wharton, Garden Archivist