Thursday 8 December 2016

Marie Staunton: Hortcouture

There’s a whole line of catwalkworthy plants to create a stylish garden, says Marie Staunton

Marie Staunton

Published 16/04/2011 | 05:00

I couldn't resist this little play on words. Too many years in the fashion business, perhaps -- maybe that's why I have a love of plants that make a statement. Sophisticated, elegant, vibrant and downright showy, they demand you take a second look, and deservedly so.

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My first super-plant is the very delicate and pretty Coronilla valentina subsp glauca 'Citrina'. It has bags of style, and you won't see it very often in garden centres, which makes it that little bit special. This little gem is evergreen with pale-lemon, pea-like flowers that keep on coming through the winter, and it is perfect for a small, stylish garden.

The very beautiful Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' is a breath of fresh air, flowering around Christmas and continuing for at least two months, with a perfume so stunning it would give Chanel a run for its money. It's a little expensive, but worth every cent.

Robinia psuedoacacia 'Frisia' is a very elegant, slim-stemmed tree with acid-yellow, fern-like leaves that flutter in the slightest breeze. You're probably thinking, "That one is using all those boring Latin names again", but if I don't, you won't be able to find these amazing plants, so stick with it. I can't spell for peanuts, but Latin spells like it sounds -- and it is, after all, the language of horticulture in every single country.

Next on the hort couture catwalk is Metasequoia glyptostroboides. This is a very beautiful tree known also as the Dawn Redwood -- a deciduous conifer, unusual enough because most conifers don't lose their leaves in autumn. It was only found in 1941 in a temple in China and propagated since 1948, so we are lucky to have it at all.

When it first comes into leaf, it is bright green. Then towards the autumn, the leaves turn copper. Even naked, it is a handsome tree worthy of a place in your garden.

If I was trying to create an oriental feeling in a garden, then top of my list would be Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku' (pictured). This little beauty has coral-coloured stems with small leaves which start off a salmon colour, turning lime green to rich gold in autumn.

If you really want to make a statement then look no further than the Ginkgo biloba (the Maidenhair tree) which was the only tree to survive in Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped, which helps explain why it has been around for 200 million years.

Traditionally, couture shows end with the bride, so I will close with a bridal theme: the very lovely Cornus controversa 'Variegata', known as the wedding-cake tree, as it grows in tiers. Give it a little space and the tiers will be very obvious. Should you be on the lookout for a special wedding present, look no further -- except if the happy couple are setting up home in an apartment!

Readers' questions

Q: How can I get rid of moss in my lawn? AWith great difficulty, unfortunately. Mosses like badly drained, poor-quality acidic soil, and if your lawn happens to be in the shade, then it likes it even better. The first step is to rake it off and start a maintenance programme; by eliminating one of the reasons it likes your lawn, the grass will start to recover. In May, apply a lawn fertiliser and weed killer, then over June and July make sure that the lawn doesn’t dry out. By cutting it on a regular basis, the grass will get stronger and crowd out the moss.

In August, repeat the fertiliser and weed-killer treatment and then brace yourself for the hard work in September, because you will need to scarify and spike it. As autumn and winter approach, rake up any leaves that find their way on to your lawn. After all that, take out the putter and have a practice. QWhat would be a good tree for a very small garden?

A: No matter how limited the space, I would always find a spot for an Acer (Japanese maple) These are so lovely and adapt to life in a pot extremely well. They come in a variety of leaf colours and, grouped together on a patio, make an instant garden. Consider Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum. Acer japonicum ‘Vitifolium’ will give beautiful autumn colour and make a very fine small tree.

email your questions to mstaunton@independent.ie

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