Malus hupehensis AGM

I have a confession. The tree in the photo above is not actually in our garden. About 25 years ago, our neighbour, who grew it from seed, planted it on the verge in our lane, so I watch its progress through the seasons from the kitchen window. This tree gives us pleasure on so many fronts. The show starts in April/May when the delicate pink buds open to a profusion of white flowers which have a subtle musky scent; it makes a simply stunning display, and passing walkers often stop by to ask its name. Ernest Wilson discovered it...

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Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’

It all depends on the sun, the wind, the rain, and the frost … and on the order in which they come and go throughout the year. Therefore each autumn brings subtly different colour schemes and it is why some plants excel one year where before they were more muted. Today it’s the turn of an American switch grass, and it has been grabbing my attention for the last few weeks until I could no longer ignore it! Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ is the most narrowly upright form of the genus and is therefore perfect for the smaller border where...

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Ageratina ligustrina AGM

This unusual, autumn flowering shrub used to be known as Eupatorium ligustrinum and for once I am happy to see a plant renamed. Eupatorium are known to be a faintly thuggish lot and the idea of one with privet type leaves was not appealing. However Ageratina ligustrina is neither thuggish, nor does it bear anything but a passing resemblance to a privet. Above shiny, neat, slightly pointy leaves, the flat heads of tiny, white flowers cover this dainty evergreen shrub from September through October and on sunny days butterflies and bees will descend en masse to enjoy one of...

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Symphyotrichum ericoides ‘Deep Danziger’ and other asters

There are certain genera that simply must be seen in flower before you buy them, and asters (or symphyotrichum as many of them have now become) are on that list. It is oh-so-easy to be swayed by glowing descriptions on labels or in catalogues, only to find that the colour and/or height weren’t quite what you were expecting, or that the habit is disappointing. There is no substitute for seeing the actual plant, talking to the person who has grown it, and there is no better place to do that than at a good plant fair. One of the best is held at...

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