GARDENING: Our perennial friends and our companions

A goldfinch nest in a viburnum.A goldfinch nest in a viburnum.
A goldfinch nest in a viburnum.
It was comforting during the first lockdown, and continues in this second confinement, that long-standing friends appear to be ever present.

Whereas those of the human variety are a mere phone call or online chat away, others of an inanimate nature are constant companions in the house and garden. I refer to our favourite perennial plants, some of which are overdue long service awards.

No matter what the time of year, it’s reassuring to know that certain perennial plants in your garden will step up to the mark and perform in their own inimitable way, and we in turn will celebrate their presence. It is such reliability that cements lasting friendships.

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Mahonia, jasmine, viburnum and autumn cherry are bursting into bloom and will continue throughout winter. Bulb shoots are emerging, and we know from experience that they can take snow and severe frost in their stride; their tenacity is inspirational.

A silver birch (Betula pendula) is such a plant. With decades of growth under its belt, and more to come, it is ever changing with the seasons. The leaves have fallen revealing birds nests, one of which was occupied this year by a pair of great tits.

Various insectivores treat the canopy as an all-year drop-in food store, and when the summer leaves shimmer in the breeze an image reflects across the sitting room carpet. Magic! A feeling of permanence and durability emanates from the trunk’s gnarled bark. The least we can do is organise the annual prune to control height, spread, and the tree’s health.

The Victoria plum is a mere youngster at 35 years and stands little over three metres tall thanks to the Pixie dwarfing rootstock. It is such a reliable cropper. The leaves began to fall earlier this year, but this has happened before, a natural response to a long dry spell. Ever reliable, it will bounce back with those early spring flowers and summer fruits. Such plants are inspirational.

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Currently we have five groups of hardy fuchsias that refuse to stop flowering. They were all raised from softwood stem cuttings. I love the pink Hawkshead which despite being pruned to ground level in winter, still insists on reaching two metres by midsummer. My current favourite indoor plant is Streptocarpus Targa` and I keep telling her so!

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