Gardening: Raining champs

HOME AND DRY: Viburnum opulus can tolerate heavy, damp ground.
HOME AND DRY: Viburnum opulus can tolerate heavy, damp ground.
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We all need cheering up. Forget about winter, start thinking about spring – and then the glory of a proper English summer.

So, plenty of opportunities to wear the wellingtons and snorkels received at Christmas, and the chance to consider which shrubs will have the best chance of thriving in 2017.

There are few plants that like their roots in water, but some can tolerate permanent dampness and the occasional soaking, and these may well be the stars of this summer.

Most willows are quite happy when it’s wet, but many are also a little bit too vigorous for a small garden; the Salix family is renowned for producing varieties with searching roots which can threaten drains and foundations.

So choose with care and give them plenty of room.

Salix daphnoides (the violet willow) is normally grown for its winter shoots, although some forms also have stunning catkins in spring. Expect a mature violet willow to reach 20ft in height and width.

Most gardens will be unable to accommodate a willow, but the likes of the bog myrtle, Myrica gale, are far more likely to be given a warm welcome. It’s an aromatic shrub – again with spring catkins – whose foliage is a striking blue-green.

This little shrub (probably reaching no higher and wider than three feet) can tolerate very wet conditions, so it could prove a valuable acquisition.

Another scented, damp-loving shrub is Clethra alnifolia, the sweet pepper bush, whose perfumed flowers appear in late summer. One possible disadvantage is that this is a plant with a tendency to throw up suckers where they are not wanted.

And then there is that old standby, Viburnum opulus, the guelder rose, and a staple part of many a mixed deciduous hedge. A happy example will produce lovely white lace caps of flowers in spring and startlingly vibrant, waxy-red berries and colourful leaves in late autumn.

The guelder rose is a vigorous shrub and can often form stands up to 12ft in height, but it can be a very hardy and normally reliable addition to any garden.

Other shrubs that are capable of laughing off perennially-damp soils include several of the colourful dogwoods, such as Cornus alba ‘Aurea’ and C stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’, whose bare winter stems bring a vibrancy to dispel the gloom.

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