I know that I openly declare that I do not like shrubs, but I am going to list the ones that I could not do without. Yesterday James spent ages pruning the skirts of Cornus Alternifolia Argentea, and the layers looked so beautiful by the time he had finished with it. He also cut out the bits that had reverted. The best time for this shrub is when it is coming into leaf in the Spring. It has this lovely habit of layering into four layers, with a smaller one at the top. Further on at the bottom of the garden is Cornus Controversa which is taller with a bigger leaf and has five layers. It is at the bottom of the Klimt border and has the backdrop of the three large lime trees. Equally good in the Spring they both look marvellous early on. Here I have to be really careful where I place something which is by my standards, huge. What is fun here is that they have both matured. You often see Cornus Alternifolia Argentea grown, just looking in a bit of a heap, with the layers not defined.
Another favourite are the Cotinuses. Here we have Cotinus Flame, which is a green one with a beautiful variation of green on the leaves and a pinky red froth of a flower, that is if you do not prune it back which we do with Cotinus Grace. I remember seeing a lot of. Cotinus Flame hanging over the water at Ninfa just north of Rome, and how amazing it looked. Anything repeated en masse looks good, if it is attractive in the first place. I have grown for ages Cotinus Grace, which is soft maroon, and we cut hard back in spring, so the leaves are bigger, and the trunk looks rather knobbled in winter. A new one which I read about in an article by Clare Foster, is called Cotinus Old Fashioned, and has a soft blue leaf, and I have only been growing it a year. It is what I would call promising. Most clematis would look good growing near them. Not over them – I remember that was one of Dianey Binney’s pet hates. She did not like clematis growing over roses or shrubs. All of these Cotinuses give you a restful feel to gaze at them flowering.
The third shrub that I love is Colutea Media, which is not often grown. It has a pea like leaf and early on there are little tangerine flowers. It has doubled in size this year and now is flowering again with bladder like pods which are very attractive. The whole effect is very pretty.