My favourite plant goes by the name of Scope.
It doesn't often come my way as it needs space, indeed this is its primary requirement, but occasionally I lose something in the garden and suddenly, I have Scope.
It happened recently when red spider mite attacked an aged Viburnum tinus (see The Land, March 10). After cutting back the affected branches little remained but a bare, woody stump.
It occurred to me that if I removed the unsightly object instead of waiting for it to re-sprout, I would have endless Scope, at exactly the right season for planting. Thank you red spider mite.
The stump was so huge I had to saw it off rather than dig it out, but it will rot down eventually.
I was left with an area, roughly four by four metres, sloping slightly north and surrounded on two sides by some overgrown smoke bush and mock orange.
It is shaded in summer by an ancient crab apple's overhanging branches and is a long way from a tap.
I made a list of qualities I wanted, starting with drought and shade tolerance. Inspired by a green and gold foliage planting at Stratford, O'Connell, I fixed on shiny evergreens to lighten the shade, with gold highlights, and low growing ground covers for flowers.
Few evergreens beat Viburnum japonicum for large, shiny leaves and it has the bonus of tiny but fragrant white flowers followed by scarlet berries. It grows to about 1.2 to 1.8 metres which is just right for the space. V. odoratissimum is another beauty but at 3m to 4m would be too big.
Spotted laurel, Aucuba japonica 'Aurea', is the ultimate shade lover. Luckily I had an 18-month-old cutting from a friend's plant, whose parent is 1.5m tall and bears red berries every winter.
I thought I could probably fit in one more medium shrub (well, for the time being) so chose a north American Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius, 1m to 2m) for its largish, mid-green, lobed leaves, pinky white summer flowers and hanging clusters of dry, papery autumn seed pods.
Ninebarks adapt to a wide range of climates and conditions so I'm hoping it will handle the dry shade. I already have the purple leaf form 'Diabolo' and find it beautiful and trouble free.
My three shrubs will take a few years to get going, so meanwhile I have plenty of room for half a dozen smaller plants. I'm adding Daphne odora for its incomparably scented, winter flowers, Christmas box (Sarcococca ruscifolia) with tiny, shiny green leaves and fragrant white autumn flowers, and a few easy Corsican hellebores, H. argutifolius, with large, shiny, toothed leaves and clusters of pale green winter flowers.
Lastly, gold variegated Liriope muscari 'Gold Band' carries narrow spikes of purple flowers in summer and will make a perfect edging.
Stratford garden will open as part of Bathurst Spring Spectacular from October 28 to 30. Ten gardens, market stalls, music and displays.
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