Plant of the month: super skimmia

Everyone likes a low-maintenance plant with a long season of interest and skimmias fit the bill perfectly

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella'Relatively slow growing and naturally compact, they are a very useful evergreen plant to have in the garden. Growing well in sun or relatively deep shade they will thrive providing they have a neutral to acidic soil that is free draining.

The season of interest is long, with the attractive flower buds being visible from autumn all through the winter, which is the time when they are at their best. Then they burst open in April with masses of tiny but very fragrant flowers that are a rich source of nectar for hungry bees in the springtime.

Some forms even produce berries that persist well into the winter; this can mean that, depending on the cultivar, you can have buds and fruit on the plant at the same time

Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ holds the AGM and it’s easy to see why. This cultivar has a reddish tinge to the foliage and clusters of wine-red buds that contrast perfectly with the foliage. These make an attractive addition to festive floral displays, wreaths and table decorations along with other seasonal evergreens. This form is male so you don’t get the fruit, but it’s beautiful none the less.

Here at Harlow Carr we have several dotted through woodland as a useful low evergreen shrub, however the best place to see them en masse is on the Winter Walk where they grow close to the path edge, and complement other winter-interest plants including the silvery stems of the ornamental brambles, Rubus thibetanus.

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