Parrotia persica AGM – Persian Ironwood

I first saw Parrotia persica (a group of three) in the winter garden at Polesden Lacey and wanted one immediately: the sight of those deep crimson flowers erupting from bare branches was captivating. As with many flowers at this time of year you must get up close to appreciate their beauty, but then that is the enjoyment of being in the winter garden; it is a stroll of discovery of tiny details on a cold day, as opposed to a blast of unmissable colour in the heat of summer. The Persian ironwood is a hardy, deciduous, upwardly spreading tree...

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Nandina domestica

Otherwise known as the sacred or heavenly bamboo, it is in fact a member of the same family as Berbers and Mahonia. It is the eastern equivalent of holly, being widespread in India, Japan and China. In Japan (where it is often grown in a pot outside the front door), it is said that if you have a nightmare you should go and tell your nandina, so as to dispel any harm that might otherwise follow. A bit like our European equivalent of telling the bees (if you’re a beekeeper) about the important events in your life. Who knows where these customs...

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Euphorbia x pasteurii ‘John Phillips’ AGM

In the summer months, they are mostly background, but when winter comes, they are backbone. From now on, evergreen shrubs become more and more important as the last remaining leaves of deciduous plants fall to earth. Coloured stems, bare twigs, and silhouettes of trees, all play their part in the winter garden, as do the many highly scented flowers that come into their own as the new year unfolds; but right now, the evergreen shrubs hold centre stage, and none does it better than my special plant this week. It is a truly garden–worthy plant: architectural, robust and vigorous, and...

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It has to be hellebores!

I am not a fan of the sort of mild winter that slips almost imperceptibly into spring, so I am happy with this one! February means hellebores at their best, but I’m not going to get bogged down with too many different sorts here, for there are many, including some very interesting species. I’m going to stick with the lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus) which has such a wide range of colour, (from nearly black through endless shades of wine red, pink, creamy yellow to white) and are among the most handsome and versatile of winter flowering plants. Their...

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