Flower of the week 30th May. From YOUR garden to YOUR table

Choisya ternata

We had one really warm afternoon this past week and I took the brief opportunity to sit and relax in my garden. Even before I looked towards the shrub pictured, the strong aroma of its flowers drifted towards me. It has all the merits to be classed as the ‘perfect garden  shrub’ –it is evergreen,  low maintenance, disease and insect free and has the  bonus of  fragrant flowers smothering its leaves at this time of the year. I cut a few twigs to bring inside and I was rewarded with a similar fragrance in my home.

Botanical  Name:  Choisya .    Common Name :  Mexican Orange Blossom.

Its common name gives us an insight into its origin – Mexico, but why is it called Orange blossom if the flowers are pure white? You would be excused for asking this obvious question if you have never been near the plant – but the answer is quite simple – the scent  of the flower is similar to scratching the peel of an orange; a heady citrus smell. This is not just confined to its flowers but a slight scrape on the leaves all the year round will achieve a similar result. It flowers profusely in May / June and then again sporadically throughout the Summer.

Planting and buying guide:

There are three main types available.

1] Choisya Ternata – This is the most common Choisya and the one to go for. It has oval green leaves arranged like a daisy and will reach about 2m in height. I prune it lightly after flowering and this encourages new leaves and flowers to appear on the lower part of the bush, this will also encourage it to grow wide rather than high as the picture shows.

2] Choisya Aztec Pearl – This variety has thin linear leaves. It does not grow as strong and as high as the other varieties and after a few years begins to look a bit spidery.  In my eyes it looks more interesting than beautiful!

3]  Choisya Sundance – This variety is similar to ternata, but it  has  lemon coloured leaves or greenish yellow  when grown in shade. It is shy to flower and the flowers are missing the lovely contrast of pure white on the  deep green background which makes the other varieties so beautiful. But if you think this colour leaf blends well with the rest of your garden then go ahead and buy one!

They will  grow well in any garden soil although it is always advisable to add some compost around the root ball when planting. They will also grow in any aspect even partial shade; the choisya pictured gets only a few hours sunshine a day.

Potted bushes are available at most garden centres. Expect to pay around £5 for a 2 litre pot and £10 for a 3 litre pot. Or if you see a friends bush – take a cutting during summer, (with permission of course, as gardeners are renowned to ask before taking cuttings!)  plant it up  in compost in a cold frame and it  should root quite easily.


Money saving tip:

I am always intrigued when I see the trolleys coming out of the garden centres with many trays of bedding plants and a couple of hanging baskets. The question that springs to my mind is  – if the purchaser has the ability to bend down and plant their bedding,  why can’t they sit at their garden table and enjoy planting up a few hanging baskets. So my advice is: buy a few extra plants (around 6 or 7 for an average basket) – include a few trailing plants (B & Q have a potted ivy for just £1 at the moment), take out last years basket from the shed, or buy a new one for a few pounds, and pot it up at your leisure. You will now have a hanging basket that will not only match your own colour scheme but also cost you half the price!

Enjoy your gardening week!

Boris Legarni.

Next week :  ‘Is it too late to plant potatoes?’

Potato Plot

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