Vaguely isosceles and triangulating a level, gravelled area of the Japanesque garden are three planned shrubs beds; the top one will feature an Acer Trompenburg. Japanese hydrangeas will dominate the other two, either side some stone steps.
The bed on the left of the steps is a part-sun south facing border and already in place there is an edging hedge of miniature Forsythia ‘Mikador’, as well as a Hydrangea ‘Jogasaki’. Since it is the first part of the garden that is seen on entry (after an adjacent mixed Sarcococca boundary path edge), I shall refer to it as First Sight and drew up this remit for a third shrub
- evergreen – to part fill winter gaps created by deciduous Japanese hydrangeas
- medium size – to screen but not block the immediate garden view
- fragrant -to complement an adjacent sarcococcas border
- variegated – golden, to complement its boundary hedge of miniature Forsythias
Winter is the best time for considering evergreen plants and Daphne odora is one of the stand-outs for this time of year.
This, the ‘winter Daphne’, is also known as the Japanese Daphne, hence an obvious choice. Daphne odoras are evidently fragrant and some are variegated too, a desirable trait in Japan, and both D. odora “Mae-Jima” and “Marriani” tick the boxes:
Compact habit and attractive creamy-yellow edged green leaves. Profuse dark pink, strongly fragrant flowersBurncoose
Growing to approximate 5 feet after several years, these seem to be ideal
Daphnes have a reputation for being slow growing, difficult and temperamental to grow and expensive. While their reputation is well deserved on all three counts that is not to say that they cannot be grown perfectly easily in gardens throughout the UKBurncoose
By contrast Viburnums are easier, more reliable plants as well as generally being less expensive. They too are fragrant and many originate from S.E. Asia though mostly, China and/or Korea rather than Japan, other than Viburnum plicatum, the deciduous Japanese snowball bush.
The only evergreens however are V. cinnamomifolium, V. davidii, V. odoratissimum, and V. rhytidophyllum and all are large shrubs except for V. davidii which grows 3-4 feet:-
Flattened heads of tubular, white flowers in May, followed by metallic, turquoise-blue fruit (requires both sexes in proximity). Dark green foliage, forming a low, dome-like shape, is a visual ‘anchor’ for taller perennials and shrubs.Crocus
Although I had a preference for viburnums before doing the research, it is evident that most do not fit the remit. Thus one of the golden variegated D. odoras is now on the plant wishlist.
Since the planting is from scratch, instead of picking a plant at random from garden centres in a sort of magpie collection, I’m enjoying planning and learning as I go. Besides, it’s one way of passing these wet winter days with one eye on an early Spring bloom.