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Crisply serrate foliage, in misty blue-green, erupts from the ground in late summer and this impressive plant may even produce a totally superfluous waxy maroon-brown flower spike for you in hot summers
- Position: full sun
- Soil: moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil
- Rate of growth: average to fast-growing
- Flowering period: May to July
- Hardiness: half hardy (will need winter protection)
As they unfurl in early spring, the spectacular, grey-green leaves up to 50cm (20in) long, reveal serrated edges that look as though they have been cut with pinking shears. This dramatic architectural shrub makes a stunning specimen for a sunny, perennial border or exotic-style garden in warmer areas of the country. In hot summers, it sends up curious tubular, reddish-brown flowers, but it is the wonderful foliage that stops you in your tracks. To stop it getting leggy, it is best cut back in early spring and the plant will make up to 1.5m growth in one season. To minimise the risk of frost-damage it's important to provide a dry, winter mulch. It is quite late into leaf in spring, so you do need to be patient, but you may be surprised by the amount of growth it will put on late in the year.
- Garden care: Water frequently until established and apply a generous mulch of well-rotted manure or garden compost around the base of the plant in spring. Although it is is shrub, this plant is best treated as a perennial and cut down to within two or three buds from the base of in early spring. It will shoot back from the base. Protect with a dry winter mulch of straw or bracken especially in cold winters.
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Q:Is my Melianthus OK?
I have a Melianthus major in my garden which is looking decidedly dead! Is it dormant or have I killed it?Asked on 31/3/2006 by Lynn Beasley
A:This does not sound great I'm afraid and Melianthus is an evergreen shrub, which should keep its leaves on throughout the winter. It is not fully hardy though and does need protection when the temperatures drop, so it may have been killed off by the excessively cold weather we had earlier in the year.Answered on 3/4/2006 by Crocus
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