On shrubs and going a bit mad


Sometimes you suddenly get a bit between your teeth and do something radical. I think whatever it is has actually been brewing away subconsciously, and then something happens to pull it into the foreground and there you are – with an inspiration which seems to have come out of nowhere. You could apply this theory to great works of art and literature. I’m applying it to the big bed in the bottom garden.


This is the bottom garden, this time last year (I’m about three weeks’ behind). To the left of the red Acer is a green shrub – that’s a clethra (or, according to my spellchecker, a ‘plethora’ – sort-of right there). It’s actually in the bed behind. Just below and to the right of the plethora is a green boringness. This is a Lonicera fragrantissima. Allegedly. Boring as all out – but should be good in spring.

Nah. Lonicera fragrant-isn’t-ima. Out with it!

I’ve always fancied getting a Cotinus coggygria, a red one this time – I had a green one in my last garden. So I set off for the garden centre, necessitating a 16-mile detour due to long-lasting %@1±CCZ&*! roadworks, and there one was. Looked good, decent price. But there was something that gave me second thoughts – would it really show up against the hedge? Would it work with the glorious colour of the big Acer?

I’d already done the detour so I decided to press on – and ended up at Fron Goch, my favourite garden centre and one where you can always get really good, knowledgeable advice. I was briefly distracted by ferns (no surprises there):

Fron Goch ferns

but remembered what I was supposed to be doing (and the fact that I’d recently bought a couple of ferns). So I sought out one of the most knowledgeable staff – I’d suddenly had an idea, and I wanted to run it past someone.

Another Acer. But a different one. Plenty to choose from…

Fron Goch 3

The bed I’m considering is probably the least exposed place in the whole garden, protected by the Great Hedge of the Annual Scaffolding Winge, and the red Acer is a beauty – though it’s approaching the top of the GHASW and heaven only knows what will happen when it reaches the top. Nothing too fatal, I trust. The presence of the hedge is one of the problems – whatever I plant needs to stand out, it needs presence.

Tah dah!

acer leaves

I think this qualifies. It’s Acer shirasawanum ‘Jordan’, and it’s only fair to say that it was not cheap. But, I feel, worth it. It’s already lighting up that corner,

bottom garden

even though it’s only a baby – there it is, between the standing stones – and contrasts nicely with the darkness of its background  while also working with the red Acer (about eight or nine feet tall, to give an idea of scale – and of the need for scaffolding during the annual hedge-cutting exercise).

The leaves flush pink when younger and in sun:

baby leaves

and it is, interestingly, fruiting:


A lovely healthy plant. And now I have to go and rob a bank or something, but I’m happy. Bit like the Acer, hopefully!


12 Comments Add yours

    1. kate says:

      Thank you – I’m so glad I didn’t go for the cotinus now… at least for that position… hmm

  1. Pauline says:

    A lovely choice for your garden, it shows up beautifully against the background.

    1. kate says:

      It really does. I hesitated about two acres in the same area, but it just looks right.

  2. Kate it looks lovely and can only get better as it grows, Frances

    1. kate says:

      I keep going out and admiring it – if it was a dog I’d be patting it!

  3. hillwards says:

    Beautiful acer – as you know I’m a bit of a fan too! The green really sings out in its location – great change-of-plan 🙂

    1. kate says:

      They are so beautiful! Was tempted by one with a very feathery leaf – for the contrast – but I listened to the incredibly helpful woman at Fron Goch, who thought that wouldn’t have sufficient impact. She was absolutely spot on.

  4. Cathy says:

    I enjoyed my trip to the garden centre with you and never even noticed the %@1±CCZ&* roadworks so you must have been good company! The acer does look lovely and stands out surprisingly well against the hedge with those bright green leaves. I nearly took my Lonicera fragrantissima out as its handful (OK, fragrant too) of flowers did not make up for the bareness of the stems during the rest of the year – so glad i didn’t as it was stunning this winter and flowered and flowered for months. I have now planted a clematis up it to give interest in the rest of the year.

    1. kate says:

      Rats – *sucks teeth* on the Lonicera… well, it had its chance and it should have done its thing this year. Or last year. Or the one before that – anyway, it’s now on the bonfire heap so I guess I’ll not find out. I am still absurdly pleased with the Acer, though it’s been treated to a very rude awakening as far as weather goes…

  5. Perfect! I love it, and it will give far more, for far more of the year, than the lonicera-that-didn’t.

    1. kate says:

      It’s still looking good a couple of weeks later… shhhhhhhhh

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