Six on Saturday 10th April

Hello there, and welcome to this week’s Six on Saturday! It’s pretty dry in the garden and frankly, the place is flagging a little; I’m sure it’ll pick up as soon as we get some rain (by the time you read this, we may have had some). In the mean time, shrubs, with their more substantial root systems, are a lot more resilient to these sorts of stresses. As a reward for their sturdy constitutions, I’m featuring a few spring flowering shrubs this week. As usual, this post is part of a wider selection of Six on Saturday posts, available for browsing at your leisure on The Propagator’s mighty blog.

1. Spiraea ‘Bridal Wreath’

I’ll start with the only shrub in the garden that was here when we moved in. It’s name is up for debate, it’s either Spiraea ‘Arguta’ or Spiraea x cinerea ‘Grefsheim’. Both are known as Bridal Wreath and in less scrupulous circles, the names are used interchangeably. The main difference I can find between them is that ‘Grefsheim’ is slightly smaller; that would point to mine being ‘Arguta’. I notice Fred put a picture of ‘Arguta’ up on Twitter this week – it’s an absolute cracker too! If anyone can enlighten me in this taxonomical conundrum, please do.

It has a slightly strange shape at the moment. When we moved in it had been given the ol’ short, back and sides treatment (and presumably had been for several years previously). I’ve been removing old stems every year to encourage some new growth from the base, allowing it to develop those long, arching, flower-smothered stems. The left hand side of the shrub is looking really good; the right hand side seems to be dancing to it’s own tune, so we’ll see how it progresses.

2. Berberis darwinii

In the picture on the left, it’s a little drab looking. The flowers are not quite fully out yet either, however it’s about to come into it’s own and put on a show of orange blossoms. It’s a bit of an acquired taste in some respects, but I like it. Ultimately, it probably can’t stay in this small space for ever as it’s natural tendency is grow a little larger. When the time comes, I’ll dig it up and send it on it’s merry way to someone who has a space for it. I got it for free, so it only seems right to do someone else a good turn.

3. Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’

This is a plant I actually paid good money for, and I’m glad I did. It doesn’t look too impressive at the moment, as both leaves and flower are only just showing. Before long, it will be covering the fence and putting on a great display of white flowers. It grows fairly sedately, so training it up the fence is a long term project, but one that is beginning to pay off.

4. Buddleia alternifolia

This is a lovely shrub, with long branches covered in lilac flowers. The closeup doesn’t show any buds, but they’ll be there somewhere, I promise. It has proved very obliging, cheerfully allowing me to train it against the fence. This section of border is thin, so bigger shrubs have to behave themselves. There’s also a stray daffodil in the photo. I’m not sure where that came from!

5. Ribes sanguineum ‘Kind Edward VII’

Ribes seem to be the flavour of the month, and it’s not hard to see why. This went in as a very small little thing, as they so often do, but has romped away with admirable enthusiasm. I give a judicious hack every year after it finishes flowering, and it responds very graciously. As far as I can find out, this was the first cultivar of R. sanguineum, dating from 1904. It was named after the king of the time. It’s nice to have a plant of such regal heritage on my humble patch of earth.

6. Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Alba’

I’m sure I don’t need to point out to you that this isn’t a shrub. Pulsatillas are so photogenic that I couldn’t resist. You just point the camera in their general direction and end up with a picture you could put on the mantelpiece. It’s burgeoning shoots featured in a previous Six on Saturday, and it’s finally living up to it’s promises.

Thus ends this weeks Six on Saturday. Do pop over to The Propagator, to take in the sights and sounds of some other posts. Enjoy your weekend!

21 thoughts on “Six on Saturday 10th April”

  1. My sympathies on the lack of rain, we are in the same predicament down here. I am with you on pruning for a natural form in shrubs generally, and wow what a beautiful Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Alba’. I just happen to be reading about them in the AGS. Apparently seed needs to be sown fresh, so may I ask for some fresh seed as soon as they are ready? Pretty Please…..apparently they are much easier to germinate fresh that if one waits for the annual seed sharing of socieities.

    1. Of course, I’ll send some you way as soon as they appear. I don’t know whether it’ll come true from seed – I would assume it will, as there aren’t any others anywhere nearby.

      1. I couldn’t believe it, but when I went up to buy my veg this morning the adjoining nursery had two Pulsatillas: the ruby form and a pale blue one. I think a little collection is forming! We shall be able to swap seed!

  2. I’ve been admiring a similar looking Ribes in a neighbour’s garden. Berberis brings back memories. We had a large one in the front garden when we were kids – pretty in bloom but you didn’t want to sit on the lawn nearby after it had been pruned! Off to look up Buddleia alternifolia…

    1. Yes, my kids have learned the hard way about the Berberis!

      I picked up the Buddleia when I was working at a plant nursery. I’ve never seen it for sale since then, despite it being very easy to grow.

  3. Hi Andrew, so here is the post on the spiraea: yours is also very pretty in bloom right now, and I think it is the same variety as mine , S. x Arguta. I read that the S. Grefsheim has a more drooping shape and that it was smaller in size. When we compare the photos thanks to Google, it doesn’t look too much like yours but I could be wrong. Let’s wait for other opinions… Very nice photo of ribes and your pulsatilla is very floriferous, full of flowers buds to come

    1. I think you’re right – thanks! I took the photo of mine on Wednesday, it’s looking even better now the flowers are opening up a bit more.

  4. I have a spirea about to flower but it doesn’t have the nice, drooping branches that yours and one at our previous house did. Again, we had a flowering currant that I really liked at our previous house. Rather a different Six-on-Saturday for you, but very pretty again.

  5. You are right, the Pulsatilla is gorgeous, it has a fairy-like quality with those fine downy hairs. I rather like Berberis darwinii, and I drew a close up of its leaves and berries for a short botany course I did – it’s a plant that is worth closer inspection. Overall a nice shrub selection, not a Forsythia in sight.

    1. I glad you like it, I think it has a lot to recommend it.

      I try to have a few different shrubs as I think they’re a bit more reliable in their flowering.

  6. I’ve got a white flowering spirea in the garden which had been given the most brutal short back and sides by the previous owners, until the top was an absolute thicket. I’ve been here 11 years now and I’m still trying to get it back into decent order (nearly there!). It’s not in flower yet so maybe it’s neither of the varieties you mention. Hopefully yours will come good soon.
    The Pulsatilla is looking beautiful.

    1. Sometimes it’s quite a slow process, renovating a shrub! I find that’s often the case with things like mock oranges – if they’ve been trimmed across the top for years and years, it takes a while for it to grow more naturally again.

  7. So you’re buying a red pulsatilla like mine and I will hope to buy a white one like yours! I really enjoyed your shrub pictures too. I’m a huge fan of berberis – you can’t beat it for spring pizazz. Mine has been held back flowering by the cold but like yours there are plenty of buds.

    1. I haven’t seen the white one around much. As is my way, it was liberated from someone else’s garden! I’ve promised Noelle some seeds from it, so I can send some your way too when the time comes, if you’re interested.

  8. The shrubs trained against walls are quite effective. I appreciated your pruning guidance for the spirea to correct its form. I have a couple that I inherited with our lot whose shape could use some revision, so I will give your method a try.

    1. You end up with a more natural looking shrub (if that’s what you’re after!), but it takes time – a few years potentially!

  9. Jim Stephens

    Trees and shrubs online has an entry for S. arguta/’Grefsheim’ which may be detailed enough to make a diagnosis. Pubescent leaves, stalked flowers, that sort of detail. I never understand people clipping Spiraea into a dome, they remove nearly all the flower and then it’s barely worth growing; a well grown bush is a thing of real beauty.

    1. Aha, brilliant – looks like a useful resource.

      I completely agree. Weigelas are another common victim of this sort of treatment.

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