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Alternative Plant of the Moment - Early May 2020

Lots of loveliness out and about at the moment. While you may not be able to travel as normal and visit gardens as you might otherwise, I hope that you all have a view of beautiful plants at the very least to help you appreciate the value of spring on the landscape.

So many plants are bursting into flower as I write and while it would be easy to find a suitable plant flowering its little socks off, I think the value of foliage should not go unnoticed or undervalued.

Fagus sylvatica, Crataegus monogyna and Fraxinus excelsior

Particularly special and handsome at the moment are the various freshly coloured leaves of deciduous hedges. The unfurling buds of Carpinus (Hornbeam) and Fagus (Beech) are lovely and salad-leaf-like in appearance. Crataegus (Hawthorn) has the freshest of green leaves and the delight of flower too. Mixed native hedgerows are bursting with life and the various foliage textures and colours of Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris), Elder (Sambucus nigra), Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), Oak (Quercus robur and petrea) and other beauties light up the edges of countryside which they frame.

A lovely Acer campestre hedge with a rogue Copper Beech LN
A lovely Acer campestre hedge with a rogue Copper Beech LN

Especially handsome in my opinion and often spoken of as a poor quality tree for no good reason that I can see is Acer campestre (Field Maple), which has a beautiful palmate (i.e., 5 lobed) foliage, tinted purple when young before ageing to a pleasing, if undramatic green. Autumn colour of Butter Yellow is my favourite of our native trees and it is easy to spot as a tree or hedging material with this vibrant, glowing yellow leaf before it falls in and around October/November. It might even feature as a plant if the moment in autumn too!

Fresh, young Foliage on Acer campestre LN
Fresh, young Foliage on Acer campestre LN

The bark two is quite fun and has an irregular, fissured nature appearing corky.

As a tree, it is small (ish) and appropriate even for smaller gardens. A dense crown and naturally forms a large ‘ball on a stick’ habit without the need for training, which reminds of how a child draws a tree.

It is easy to grow and trouble-free, just quietly getting on with growing and consistently performing without fuss or the need for fanfare. It clips really well to make a hedge and is a good doer all round.

Acer campestre Autumn Colour LN
Acer campestre Autumn Colour LN

I really don’t have anything negative to say about it. It is always good and couldn’t be easier to grow, but there is something very satisfying about seeing its foliage emerge in spring.

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