As I plunge once more into a round-up of Plant of the Month, there's a somewhat shrubby feel this time round. Rhododendrons feature well, and Rhododendron arboreum "Blood Red" is chosen by Gary Long, Head Gardener at Trewithen, Cornwall, who says of their specimen, "You will stopped in your tracks at her beauty."
Birmingham Botanical Gardens have also chosen a rhodo - early-flowering Rhododendron calophytum - which opens into trusses of soft-pink bells with a maroon throat. Sounds lovely, but with leaves that grow up to a foot long and a size reaching 10 x 6 metres, this is definitely one for someone else's garden. Altogether more manageable was RHS Rosemoor's choice for last month of Rhododendron praecox, but this month they've gone for Dog's Tooth Violet, Erythronium 'Pagoda', which I'm really tempted by. A clump-forming perennial and described as "outstanding", it's a beautiful spring-appropriate yellow. I'm just a tad put off by the threat of its thug-like spread if it finds itself a comfortable position.
Rosemoor is out on a limb, as far as RHS gardens are concerned. RHS Wisley returns to shrubs with Ceonothus x veitchianus. Hyde Hall has plumped for Amelanchier laevis 'Snowflakes', good for all-year interest, but starting now with a snowstorm of white flowers contrasting with young, coppery foliage. They suggest growing a clematis through it to add blooms later in the year.
Moving north, Harlow Carr sings the praises of compact shrub, Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-Mai', the Fuji Cherry. Again, this has all-round interest, even in winter when its zig-zag limbs add architecture to the garden. (Incidentally, Kew's Plant of the Month April tours concentrate on Prunus too.)
Keeping oriental is the Horticulture Trade Association's Plant of the Moment for April, the Japanese Acer. I have to admit a certain ennui with these, as they're ubiquitous, and unless they're blazing with colour I find them dull. However, I admit that plants are generally all over everywhere when they're useful and attractive, so here are the recommendations: Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood', 'Osakazuki' and 'Sango-kaku', along with Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum', which are some of the most widely available AGM varieties.
Maintaining the Japanese theme, but somewhat more unusual, is Stachyurus praecox, chosen for April by the Friends of the Botanical Gardens, Sheffield (FOBS). Its flowers were described by E A Bowles as "pretty hanging tails like threaded cowslips, and...charming."
Enough of shrubs! For something completely different, eFIG's Houseplant of the Month is Peperomia which, if I had one, would surely be assigned ID as the Peperoni Plant. It's got a lot of variation - red, silver or yellow leaves, some are variegated, some pointed, others small and bushy. What I love about the blurb on the eFIG site (they're the trade association for the Interior Landscaping Industry) is that it says the layered, dense structure of Peperomia absorbs sound so creates peace and quiet in the home. OK, but you'd surely need a small forest to do that.
And finally, that caged plant at the top - what did it do? It's Plant of the Month from the Flower Council of Holland - Million Bells (Calibrachoa, aka mini petunias). It starts flowering this month and should continue into October, with the advantage over petunias of being "self-cleaning" (it deadheads itself, essentially). And the crime committed? Well, in my opinion, it's putting a pretty plant inside a brightly coloured cage.
If you're wondering why, then look away. Is your abiding impression of the plant or the cage?
See what I mean?