We are now well into that part of the year when the mists and mellow fruitfulness have turned into damp fog and sogginess. It’s not a time I particularly enjoy as plants decay and die and I am torn between trying to save just one more flower and facing the fact that its blossoming days are numbered so that the compost heap is the best destination. I can fool myself that it is acceptable to leave perennials standing for winter structure, at least until they collapse, which buys a bit more time. Certain stalwarts such as my white Japanese anemones march on and the chrysanthemums in pots glow in any sunlight we might be fortunate to see in these dull days.
So it is with delight that I see my Coronilla is putting out its first lemon flowers by the front door. It is one of those treasures which really delivers, a plant which flowers from the dark days of autumn, right through winter and on into spring, and when designing gardens, I like to tuck one in somewhere if at all possible.
What do you get for your investment? Well, provided you can offer it the conditions it prefers – a well drained site, sunshine, shelter from cold winds – it will reward you with blue-green foliage, similar to rue, and generous sprays of pale yellow, pea-like flowers which give off a sweet fragrance. It grows in a somewhat lax manner which can be tamed with gentle shaping after flowering. Please do not prune the plant hard, however tempting, as it responds poorly to severe treatment and you may lose a stem if not the entire plant. Early bees love it for nectar and its colours go well with blue flowered spring bulbs. As a native of the Mediterranean, it will enjoy similar conditions to those of Lavender and Cistus. If your soil is heavy, a layer of grit in the planting hole will help, and if you live in a very exposed position, then a Coronilla in a container in a greenhouse or conservatory will brighten your winter weeks.
I have had my own plant for about six years now and I notice that it is starting to look slightly straggly and leggy. I plan to take cuttings next spring to start growing new plants which will eventually take over from the current one – non-flowering shoots (or shoots with the flowering tip removed), 4 cm long with side leaves removed, in small pots of compost and sharp sand, placed in a cold frame, kept moist and grown on. Plant out in spring when the ground has warmed up. I estimate my Coronilla should last another three years by which time its offspring will be sufficiently mature to be planted out and the old plant removed.
If buying one, please ensure that you get one with the full name, Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’, the Citrina being the important word as you may otherwise end up with the orange variety which is not nearly so charming.
Hayloft Plants www.hayloft-plants.co.uk
Burncoose Nurseries www.burncoose.co.uk