This selection of shrubs is chosen specifically for the poor, thin, acid soils common on the upper parts of the Howth Penninsula. The two we have selected below are at their best this month.
Prunus subhirtella “Autumnalis”
A broad, spreading, deciduous tree, Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ is capable of reaching a height of 8m (26ft) at maturity, but usually attains rather less. The leaves are 7cm (2¾in) long, oval and sharply toothed. The flowers are pink in bud, semi-double, 1cm (½in) across, pendulous, held in small clusters and white when fully opened, although they acquire pink tones as they fade. Unlike spring-flowering cherries, ‘Autumnalis’ flowers in flushes between November and March or even April, only being temporarily halted by cold weather. This tree is frequently to be found in lists of plants flowering in public gardens on New Year’s Day. The flowers are not profusely carried but, nevertheless, look good against a blue sky, and gladden the heart when there is so little else of colour in the garden.
The autumn leaf colour is also rather better than in many other ornamental cherries. And these trees are also extremely hardy. For example, they grow well along the burn at Kailzie Gardens, near Peebles in the Scottish Borders, which is 210m (700ft) above sea level and experiences comparatively harsh winters.
A popular and reliable shrub, introduced from China in 1844, and widely grown as a wall shrub. It can be allowed to scramble freely over a low wall or up a bank, or trained up a vertical framework. Unlike many other jasmines, winter jasmine does not twine, so will need tying-in if grown vertically. The stems are bright green and give an evergreen impression, even in winter when the tiny bright yellow blooms appear, weatherproof in all but the coldest snaps. Regular pruning keeps bushes under control and prevents bare patches from appearing. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the Award of Garden Merit (AGM).