Corylopsis

My plant of the month for March is a genus of woodland understorey shrubs with hanging panicles of yellow flowers in March and reliable yellow autumn colour. Corylopsis is their name and I love them for their reliable and prolific flowering and quiet beauty. They are easy plants, preferring some shade to do well and very good for a darkish corner where they will flower in spring, become a modest background to other things over the summer, before turning a rich buttery yellow in autumn. As their name suggests, they have some resemblance to hazel (Corylus), but are generally twiggier and smaller leaved.

There are quite a few species, and I will talk about two that I have grown for over 30 years, one probably the smallest of the genus and the other possibly the largest.

Starting with the smallest, this is Corylopsis pauciflora. As the name suggests, the flowers are relatively small, but they more than make up for that by being incredibly prolifically produced, starting before the leaves in early March and looking good for almost a month. They are also a lovely pale primrose in colour.

My ancient plant is around 4 ft tall, and it has been that height for many years, although (like its owner), its girth continues to expand. I haven’t ever pruned it, but I would imagine it would be easy to restrict it’s spread just after flowering in April or May. Graham Stuart Thomas recommends planting Chinodoxa underneath it to provide a lovely contrast in colour and every year in March I think what a good idea that is, but somehow never get round to acting on it. Perhaps next year, who knows.

The other one I am fond of is Corylopsis veitchiana which is a large, arching shrub which produces strong shoots from the base and grows around 12 ft tall. Once again, it flowers before the leaves in March, but this time the flower panicles are much longer and hang nicely under the arching branches.

They are also rather darker in colour that the ones of C. pauciflora, and so, I think, not quite so pretty, but fantastic to walk under and look up at none the less.

So, if you are looking for a reliable and charming shrub to fill a shady corner, just choose whichever you have space for – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Sue Dockerill