This spring rockery plant will delight with a curtain of colour

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At some point this spring your eye will be drawn to a cascade of magenta blossom daubing a stony bank, wall or border edge. It will be aubrietia, the astonishingly bright spring alpine that creates waves of neon flowers on soft, cushiony mounds of delicate green foliage. If grown near the edge of a wall or bank the stems and flowers will quickly make their way over the side to create a curtain of colour. 

Once a stalwart of rockeries, it’s not seen as much now they have fallen out of fashion, but it deserves to be. It is an ideal plant with which to fill the gaps between stones in rocky paths, add colour to tricky stony soil, or team with spring bulbs in containers.

The flowers may be tiny but there are masses of them, in every shade of mauve, deepening to indigo blue and at the other end of the spectrum, pale baby pinks and, rarely, white. The tiny flowers have the distinctive four-petalled cross shape of a brassica, and as unlikely as it may seem this plant is related to cabbages. Like all brassicas it thrives in limey soil, which is why it is so at home growing next to the limey mortar in stone and brick walls. This also makes it ideal for difficult chalk soils. But it will thrive in most soils so long as there is sharp drainage and it’s in full sun.

Later in the summer the leaves and stems will invariably start to look dried out and stringy, but you can avoid this by shearing back the flowers and foliage immediately after flowering. This will encourage the plant to grow new leaves in bushy mounds, a more pleasing sight in your garden for the rest of the year.