Coloured stems are a popular source of colour for the winter garden and we had nine to look at. Cornus is usually the first that comes to mind and there were cultivars in a variety of colours: Cornus alba ‘Spaethii’, C.a. ‘Variegata’, C. sericea ‘Flaviramea’ and C. sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’. Salix also provides eye-catching stems when pollarded annually and we saw S. alba vitellina ‘Britzensis’ with orange stems. S. hookeriana is not so brightly coloured but has a subtle, shiny greyness with attractive dark buds adding texture.
Many members were uncertain as to the identity of some other grey stems, which turned out to be Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’. This plant is a common stalwart of the summer garden but, if left, adds a pale grey lightness in the winter. Then we had Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’, the contorted hazel. Its owner admitted that in summer it’s a poorly-looking thing but in winter its twisted stems add an interest and pleasure.
There was also a stem of Alnus incana ‘Aurea’. In this form the leaves are yellow but we noticed that the small catkins also had a very pretty yellow/pink cast to them. We also had colour from the seeds of Iris foetidissima and the hips of a very prickly Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’. And speaking of prickly, you would only realize just how prickly Colletia hystrix if you touched in inadvertently, know what hystrix means or had to carry it from the car! This beautiful plant is native to South America and flowers in late summer into autumn but obviously hangs on in good weather into December. With such sharp spines we were surprised to hear that it is also attractive to butterflies.
Seven varieties of pittosporum confirmed the popularity of these lovely shrubs. My favourite was Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’, which has variegated leaves larger than most and with an attractive pink edge. We also had P. t. ‘Margaret Turnbull’ which has leaves with a dark green undulating margin and bright yellow-green centre, P. t. ‘Silver Queen’ with rounded greyish-green leaves narrowly margined with creamy-white and P. t. ‘Tandara Gold’ with leaves which are variegated green and gold and have wavy edges. P. ‘Oliver Twist’ has small, silvery, leaves with wavy margins, P. buchananii has dark, glossy green leaves and P. tenuifolium rounded, glossy light green ones. Quite a collection!
Ever reliable Jasminum nudiflorum gave us its pretty yellow flowers and Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Ruby Glow’, which normally flowers in February, had early blooms in dark orange.
We also saw a beautiful flower of Romulea hallii, many of us for the first time. Some species of this Crocus relative can be found in the Europe – it was named in honour of Romulus, legendary founder of Rome – where it flowers in the spring but R. hallii is only known in the wild from a small area of the Succulent Karoo on the Roggeveld Plateau southwest of Sutherland in South Africa. It is possibly frost hardy but most would probably be best grown in a bulb frame.
Thank you to everyone who brought plants and made this possible.