last updated 06/02/2022

"Winter Sweet" Waxy yellow flowers with conspicuous red centre, in winter on bare stems. Delicious fragrance. Seed origin plants will take a number of year to reach flowering maturity, so it is important to note that we also have some very substantial open-ground plants that have already flowered. These also include a number with large creamy coloured flowers, much paler than the usual colouring. These are very special plants, having been lovingly grown from carefully selected seed sent to us specially from Japan where the range of colours available apparently eclipses that which we have in this country.

CHIMONANTHUS praecox 'Cobhay Sunshine'
I am thrilled with this cultivar that we have selected here. The principle is typical of the species, yet it varies so much in detail. The flowers are a pure butter yellow. It flowers comparatively early in the season. Of course all years will vary with the weather, but usually it is the first of our clones to open. Additionally, it has completely lost its leaves at the time of flowering, whilst most of the others are still to do so. It will be interesting to monitor how consistent a trait this is, independent of the weather. It blooms incredibly prolifically and the fragrance is intoxicating. It has also become apparent that it is a much more compact and upright grower. All in all it is a wonderful plant. They are notoriously difficult to propagate, so it is likely to ever only be available in very small numbers!
See it in our  Woodland Walk.

CHIMONANTHUS praecox 'Grandiflorus'
As I write, the "Wintersweet" have been an utter joy again this winter. Flowering their hearts out through the darkest days of the year, they pick superbly to scent the room. This form has a larger yellow flower with a lovely burgundy red centre. Vegetatively propagated plants to flower from a young age.
See it in our Woodland Walk.

CHIMONANTHUS praecox var. luteus 
This selection will flower straight away. Waxy flowers as above, but pure clear yellow. The scent of this gorgeous winter flowering plant is irresistible.
See it in our Woodland Walk.

CLERODENDRON trichotomum 'Purple Haze' 
A fantastic large shrub. Very fragrant white flowers enclosed in maroon calyces appear in August, to be followed by metallic blue berries, still within the colourful calyces. This selection has the added bonus of a warm purple haze through the young leaves. Supposedly one of the features for which this clone was selected is that it does not sucker in the way that is typical for the species. Normally they send up a thicket of shoots with the potential to colonise a significant area. Of course that isn't always desirable in a smaller garden, so the potential for this one to remain as a single specimen is enormous. Certainly ours is behaving in this manner so far. I would suggest that as a precaution, it would be wise not to disturb the shallow roots. If anything is going to trigger suckering, then that will do so. So avoid planting anything in its root zone that might need lifting and dividing for example, and if weeding beneath it, try to pull the weeds out rather than using a trowel. I love the scent of the flowers, which are typically a favourite with a wide range of insects and butterflies. It is a fabulous plant to have in the garden, so a better behaved version has tremendous potential.

CLETHRA alnifolia 'Ruby Spice'
I'm keen to encourage butterflies and bees, as well as other insects to the garden and this is a fantastic small shrub to do this. Native of eastern North America it helpfully flowers in late summer when there are few other "woodies" still blooming. The flower spikes are held upright like bottlebrushes, and in this cultivar they are a lovely dark pink and sweetly scented. Fundamentally tidy and upright in habit, it makes a bushy, thicketing shrub to about 1.5m in all directions. It is remarkably tolerant of growing conditions, thriving in sunny or more shady sites. However, it does prefer moisture retentive soil and does not like to dry out.
See it in our Woodland Walk.

CLETHRA barbinervis 'White Star'
I first saw this remarkable plant above the Rock Garden at Killerton, a National Trust property near Exeter, Devon. It was the wonderful exfoliating bark which immediately caught my eye. It wasn't a plant that I knew at the time, so the first thing I did when I returned home was to research it. I discovered that it was a true year-round plant, beautiful not only for its winter bark but for the white flowers in late summer. I have now planted one of these gorgeous plants in the winter garden, but have been mesmerised by the honey scent of the flowers, and thrilled to see how popular it is with the bees. It is a bonus really that it flowers in late summer, a traditionally "quiet" time for woody plants. It grows pleasingly rapidly when young. It can be allowed to grow naturally to form a shrubby small tree, or the lowest branches can be removed to create a more traditionally "tree-shaped" specimen in miniature. I like to do something in between, such that I allow several branches to come from fairly low down to maximise the bark interest, but then I remove the twiggy side shoots and lower leafy bits to emphasize the structure such that the fabulous bark is visible even when in leaf. This also allows more light through so I can under-plant with bulbs.
See it in the Winter and Quarry Gardens.

CLETHRA tomentosa 'Cottondale'
Closely related to C. alnifolia, this one differs by having a more spreading growth habit and longer flower spikes which are held more laxly. The sweetly scented flowers are white and at their peak in September, though they can continue deep into the autumn in a mild season. The lovely grey foliage is tomentose ("woolly") hence its name, and this is particularly evident on the new growth. It too prefers moisture retentive soil.

Back to Previous Page

Next Page

Go Back to Top of Page