Hypericum

Useful shrubs with bright berries and foliage as well as flowers.

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Once the darling of 1970s low-maintenance gardens the appeal of shrubby hypericum or St John’s Wort has perhaps been unjustly eclipsed in an era where perennial is king. But things are starting to change and it’s all due to developments in one species, H. inodorum, a three-foot high and wide bushy, deciduous shrubby perennial. The plant is a naturally occurring semi-evergreen hybrid between H. androsaemum and H. hircinum inhabiting open areas from Spain, Southern France through to Italy. While the small yellow starry flowers are produced into late summer, it’s the clusters of long-lasting oval fruits that have been boosted to prolong the season of interest as a cut flower crop. From previously being just red, they now come in a range of tones from white, cream, yellow, green, salmon, pink and red shades. The plants have also been selected to be resistant to the rust disease that blights many other hypericum species and varieties, another reason why hypericum has fallen out of favour.

There are a number of different types on sale, namely the Magical, Miracle and Mystical series, but with more slated to appear in the next year or so. All are easy to grow, and will do well in most moist, well-drained soils in sun or semi-shade. They don’t need staking but to keep them compact simply cut them down in late winter when new shoots start to appearing from the base. They associate will with other shrubs and low perennials in mixed borders, patio pots as well as being grown specifically for cut flowers.