Cytisus

Make space for these colourful cheerleaders of late spring

Brooms are one of those shrubs with an air of yesteryear, perhaps even slightly unfashionable. But there’s no doubting their flower-power when in bloom, which in the best varieties is astonishing. Bees and other pollinators love them.   Most cytisus are shrubs from Europe and the Mediterranean, through to western Asia. They all have thin, whip-like evergreen stems and small leaves. They vary from mat-like shrublets through to rounded or upright shrubs as tall as 1.8m (6ft), usually found growing on poor, dry soil in heathland, short grassland or stony terrain in full sun. In the wild, flowers are predominantly shades of yellow, but other colours do exist, such as pink-purple  Cytisus purpureus .   Hybrids also come in a range of vibrant or pastel red, pink or rustic shades, sometimes bi or multi-coloured. They tend to flower once over a few short weeks, so some gardeners judge them a luxury in the garden – but what a show!  Grow cytisus in well-drained soil in full sun, avoiding damp or heavy clay soils. Give them shelter as they hate exposure     and strong winter winds. No need to heavily fertilise the soil –they’ll do that themselves. They just need an occasional clip after flowering or thinning to keep them in shape.   Most don’t take kindly to being hard pruned, especially when they get mature.  It’s best to replant with new, rather than transplant existing shrubs. 

Brooms are one of those shrubs with an air of yesteryear, perhaps even slightly unfashionable. But there’s no doubting their flower-power when in bloom, which in the best varieties is astonishing. Bees and other pollinators love them. 

Most cytisus are shrubs from Europe and the Mediterranean, through to western Asia. They all have thin, whip-like evergreen stems and small leaves. They vary from mat-like shrublets through to rounded or upright shrubs as tall as 1.8m (6ft), usually found growing on poor, dry soil in heathland, short grassland or stony terrain in full sun. In the wild, flowers are predominantly shades of yellow, but other colours do exist, such as pink-purple Cytisus purpureus

Hybrids also come in a range of vibrant or pastel red, pink or rustic shades, sometimes bi or multi-coloured. They tend to flower once over a few short weeks, so some gardeners judge them a luxury in the garden – but what a show!

Grow cytisus in well-drained soil in full sun, avoiding damp or heavy clay soils. Give them shelter as they hate exposure     and strong winter winds. No need to heavily fertilise the soil –they’ll do that themselves. They just need an occasional clip after flowering or thinning to keep them in shape. 

Most don’t take kindly to being hard pruned, especially when they get mature.  It’s best to replant with new, rather than transplant existing shrubs. 

Muscari

Planting muscari is easy, as it will grow anywhere

Apart from their startling blue colouration, muscari, or grape hyacinths, are often viewed as unremarkable spring-flowering bulbs, best used for underplanting more flamboyant tulips. But there’s more to muscari than meets the eye, with some fabulous colour variants and extraordinary flower structures.

From the 42 known species, only 27 are in general cultivation, with M. armeniacum, M. botryoides, M. comosum and M. latifolium among the most well established. 

Breeders are now bringing in new colour breaks and selecting distinctive shades from existing varieties to swell the choice for gardeners.

Others species have interesting characteristics such as M. latifolium, which changes shade as the first flowers age to reveal two tones of blue. 

Muscari grow naturally around the Mediterranean basin, into North Africa and through into central and south-western Asia, usually in well-drained soil, with winter moisture and a hot, dry summer a clue to how they’re best grown.

Planted in autumn with other spring bulbs they’re easy to grow, performing best in full sun to light shade, in most well-drained soils, except thin chalk ones and those too rich in nutrients.

Once happy, they’ll soon clump up, with some such as M.b armeniacum able to naturalise in gravel gardens, borders and short grassland. They’re also great in pots.

The astonishing sterile flower heads of the tassel flower M. comosum ‘Plumosum’ can be damaged by blustery, cold winds, so avoid planting them in an exposed position.