Thursday, 16 May 2013
These evergreen trees or shrubs can be used to plug the "June gap", says Miranda Kimberley
Gardeners often search for plants to fill that strange gap between late spring and summer, when there is a lack of flowering plants. Styrax is a deciduous or evergreen small tree or large shrub which can be used to plug this "June gap", their main feature being pure white flowers that hang elegantly from the branches.
What the specialists say
Bleddyn Wynn-Jones, co-owner, Crûg Farm Plants, Gwynedd
"In our experience, it is difficult to beat the readily available Styrax japonica. We have made several seed collections in the wild of this species and grown their progeny in our trial fields where they are exposed to some severe conditions due to the lack of shelter. They all fly through without any ill-effects, flowering profusely every year.
Steve Dance, office manager, Burncoose Nurseries, Cornwall
"Styrax is a beautiful tree that fills a gap between the spring flowering period and the summer. They can become either large shrub or small tree with a graceful habit, that suits a woodland garden. They are also attractive to bees.
Ben Wighton, assistant head gardener, Lincoln’s Inn, London
"Styrax is not a tree often seen in gardens in the UK. I think this is partly because its not widely stocked by nurseries and its not on the radar of many designers and landscapers. They are perhaps less inclined to experiment with trees new to them while we are having erratic winters, with extremes of cold and wet.
Species and varieties
S. americanus is a shrub or small tree with a spreading, open crown which produces masses of dainty, white, bell-shaped flowers that hang from the branches in early summer. The flowers have narrower petals than the more commonly seen Styrax japonica and small, dark green, oval leaves. Reasonably hardy, but requires shelter from cold winter winds. Height 3m and spread 2.5m.
S. confusus is a rare small tree with long pointed leaves. It produces clusters of small, white, perfumed bell-shaped flowers, with more open petals than S. japonicus. It can withstand temperatures down to -15°C. Plant in full sun or partial shade in a sheltered position. Height 6m and spread 3m.
S. dasyanthus is a slightly tender species whose flowers hang in slender terminal racemes. Plant in full sun or partial shade. Can withstand temperatures down
S. obassia is also known as the Big-leaf Styrax because of its large ovate leaves, which are glossy, deep green above and downy beneath. They turn yellow in the autumn. It has fragrant, white bell-shaped flowers with a golden yellow centre. Can take up to six years before flowers well. Height 12m and spread 7m.
S. officinalis or the Mediterranean Storax needs a warm sheltered site. It produces oval, dark green leaves, which are grey-white beneath and short drooping clusters of large fragrant flowers. Probably less hardy than other Styrax – can cope with temperatures between -5 and -15°C. Height 6m and spread 5m.
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