Monday 23 October 2017

Purple aubrieta sets off yellow daffodil flowers


Gerry Daly

Aubrieta is fantastic this year, with a great show of purple flowers. Yellow daffodils and forsythia make yellow the dominant colour in gardens at this time of year, and that makes the contrasting colour of purple aubrieta all the more valuable. The purple not only tones down the yellow plants but sets them off to perfection, and even a comparatively small touch of purple can make a big difference.

Aubrieta is native to Europe and to central Asia, where it is found growing in rocky places and in sparse, coniferous scrub land. Given its ability to cope with such tough natural conditions, it is no surprise that it does so well in gardens. It is very drought-resistant - the plant can lose all its leaves and look quite withered in August but greens up again as soon as the weather cools in September.

It tolerates frost without harm, despite being evergreen and, grows almost continuously during the winter months. The foliage or flowers are never affected by frost. Indeed, it is often seen flowering with frost and snow all around. Being quite a vigorous spreading plant, it is more competitive than most alpine flowers, well able to fight its corner at the front of a mixed border. Indeed, it is not unusual to see it growing up through a low hedge.

It looks particularly good growing in gravel. It is really at home in such places. It loves the dry warmth of stone. It is also very good when planted into paved areas, patios, driveways and so forth. The plants are often constricted in such places and rarely grow too large. But they do spread out on the surface, mat-like, or out from the edges, and this has the effect of softening the appearance of hard surfaces, and looks great in great swags from an old stone wall. Earthen banks, even slightly grassy ones, also make a good home for aubrieta.

A very wide range of colours is available - even a single seed packet may throw up colours from pale lilac to wine-purple. There are dozens of named varieties, each one an outstanding selection and fitting in somewhere on that colour scale. The natural variation in the flower colours is attractive in its own right, as the different shades set each other off nicely. If you find that you have too many of the same colour and no variation, you should set out to introduce some new shades. Named varieties can be purchased in flower these days.

If you find a colour that you really like, it is easy to raise from little cuttings taken any time after flowering. About 10cm long, insert in a pot of compost.

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