Exotic winter bloomer

by Adam Pasco

What a surprise it is when the Japanese aralia bursts into bloom in December. Quite why anything should naturally be programmed to flower at this time of year always puzzles me.

Fatsia japonicaWhat a surprise it is when the Japanese aralia bursts into bloom in December. Quite why anything should naturally be programmed to flower at this time of year always puzzles me, but perhaps this native of Japan and South Korea is just confused by our seasons.

Any late-flying insects in the garden aren't complaining though. When the sun shone last weekend these white globes of bloom attracted insects from far and wide. I can't say the most desirable insects were among them (in fact there were mainly flies), but in the past I've seen wasps and tortoiseshell butterflies eagerly making the most of this final feed of nectar before hibernating.

Fatsia japonica is an exotic looking evergreen shrub with large glossy, lobed leaves. Despite its tropical looks it's pretty hardy, and tolerates shade well, too. This shrub is an ideal choice to form the permanent framework for an exotic garden, something I know many people now try to develop. My own garden is more traditional, with lots of perennials providing the lushness and softer colours we prefer.

However, as with so many plants, I just had to buy one fatsia and find a home for it, so it's rather crammed into an 'oddments' corner alongside Sophora 'Sun King', Choisya 'Aztec Pearl' and Photinia 'Palette'. I can't say the blend is particularly sympathetic, but then not everything in the garden needs to be carefully planned, does it? Surely I'm not an exception here. Doesn't everyone just cram things in where they have a space from time to time? At the end of the day, the plant collector in me always wins over the designer, even if it means trying to find a suitable spot for something possibly better left on the garden centre bench.

Well, my fatsia may look a little out of place, but I can't see the insects complaining. And the exotic blooms are wonderful, especially in December!

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Gardeners' World Web User 01/01/2007 at 00:00

I too also have a fatsia to blend in with my tropical garden and in dec it always warms my heart to see so many of the evergreen plants still looking pristine, despite the weather!

I'am also an avid plant collector,and have simply bought plants because of that bewitching enchantment that totally beguiles me every time i set foot in a nursery or garden centre, to add to the eclectic mixture of of plants, that is my garden. For example i like black plants and couldn't help falling for two brand new black sedums called Sedum 'Xenox'& Sedum x 'Postman's Pride' respectivley, but don't care that they're not in the some designers concept of how a tropical garden should look, you should collect the plants you want, and plant them where you think they look best. Don't be a sheep, garden the way you want, after all you're the one who's got to look at it all year,enjoy.

p.s. happy new year to everyone, lets hope this year will be a little drier!

Gardeners' World Web User 07/12/2007 at 16:06

What an outstanding article

Gardeners' World Web User 14/12/2007 at 13:24

My Fatsia is also blooming as is my camillia and azealea. If the weather turns very cold I hope that this will not do any lasting damage to them?

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:30

I also was astonished to see the winter flowers, but they are so lovely to see at this time of year, altho' I had not realised that they also are fragrant! I must have a sniff tmorrow.