Six plants that make great Christmas gifts

19 December 2019, by Peter Moore

Six plants that make great Christmas gifts

From hellebores to roses, our gardening expert selects the best for warmer winters


Between the downpours, the warmest start to winter in my lifetime has had some fine moments for gardeners. In December I still have scarlet penstemons in flower. The winter irises are out two months early. Winter cherries are out too, showing why they are a top choice for anyone who thinks the climate has entered a new phase. Prunus subhirtella autumnalis, the winter cherry tree, will go on flowering beautifully until March. Meanwhile, even the wettest of November has not blunted the autumn colours on beech trees or the quantity of berries on cotoneasters. In this flowery weather, I cannot possibly give gardening gloves as Christmas presents. I will give the plants. Here are my top six and why. None of them was for sale 20 years ago. They are living proof of gardening’s progress and are less likely to belong already to recipients with an established garden. If they happen to have one of them, they will welcome a duplicate. I assume they are keen enough not to need things in flower on Christmas Day. A pot full of twigs might be a bit too challenging, but these up-to-date six offer something for everyone. First, Choisya x dewitteana ‘White Dazzler’. Choisyas are known as Mexican oranges and are valued for evergreen leaves, which smell like a strong gin and tonic, and starry white flowers. They are not infallibly hardy but modern winters do not kill them. They are best in a sheltered place and grow surprisingly well in very dry places close to hedges, which also protect them in winter. ‘White Dazzler’ is a superb addition to the family, only about 4ft high but with finely cut evergreen leaves. Older choisyas sometimes throw off a few flowers — in autumn after their main spring flowering — but ‘White Dazzler’ has two proper flowering seasons, one in April and May, one in September. The flowers are much more sweetly scented than the previous varieties’. This plant was bred in 2007 by Peter Moore when he worked for Longstock Nurseries in Hampshire, backed by the John Lewis Partnership. When I visited him then in his famous collection of buddleias, he showed me this young choisya and remarked that it would probably outsell all his beloved buddleia-breeding. It has not done badly. ‘White Dazzler’ does not grow too tall and can be pruned hard in late May. As it is an excellent plant for a big pot, London gardeners ought to wake up to it, a disease-free evergreen. In pots it must not stand in an exposed cold site, as potted plants are more vulnerable at their roots to a sudden cold spell in winter. ‘White Dazzler’ will also make a neat low hedge

Financial Times gardening December 2019  ROBIN LANE FOX

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