It would seem that every spring there is a different star amongst flowering shrubs.
Last year it was Weigela florida ‘Variegata’; this year its sister, the purple leaved, strong-pink flowered Weigela florida ‘Foliis Purpureis’, has taken over the crown, in my neck of the woods, anyway.
But the real stunner for me over the last few weeks has been a hybrid of the Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata) called ‘Aztec Pearl’.
This was produced in the Hampshire-based Hillier Nurseries in 1982, as a cross between Choisya arizonica, an unremarkable shrub from the mountains of south Arizona, and the widely planted Choisya ternata and was the first choisya hybrid of its kind.
Strangely, it has taken 30 years to become as popular a garden plant as the true Mexican orange blossom (I discovered mine in the garden centre at a Homebase in north London about 15 years ago!), yet for the modern garden, it has a lot more going for it than its more recognisable parent.
It is a smaller, more compact shrub, with strongly aromatic, slender, compound leaves smelling of nutmeg and a profusion of highly fragrant, white flowers in May and early June and again in the autumn.
It tends to be hardier than C. ternata, and in the recent severe winters has generally emerged unscathed, while ternata, and particularly the yellow-leaved form ‘Sundance’, have often been damaged.
This spring it has excelled itself in my garden, and that of my neighbour, to whom I recommended it several years ago.
The plot layout in our part of the village is curious in that our side kitchen window overlooks the front garden of the next door property, so the ‘Aztec Pearl’ can be seen from our property when working at the sink.
This year the delicious white flowers have been beautifully framed by our Clematis montana ‘Rubens’, an entirely accidental planting association that, like many others, has worked so well.
Sadly a more recent, similar shrub but with golden leaves, called ‘Goldfinger’, which looked promising as an alternative to ‘Sundance’, has not lived up to expectations in my plot, as its weak growth and tendency to burn in frost and sun means that in a couple of years I have had to consign it, and a replacement, to the compost heap.
Not to worry, though, I shall be quite content for the time being with my ‘Aztec Pearl’, and that of my neighbour.