Evergreens for a south facing wall


Some evergreens need a large expanse on a warm wall and these include Magnolia grandiflora and Clematis armandii. Both have leathery green foliage and both stand out well in winter. Magnolia grandiflora is well named for its enormous lemon-scented white flowers are among the grandest of all. The common name, bull bay or Southern magnolia, reflects an American provenance of a tree sometimes found in maritime areas. The thick brown indumentum (a velvety layer on the undersides of the leaf), is the colour of snuff and this also stands out well in winter light. It wins the title for most tactile evergreen of all.

There are compact varieties too, such as ‘Little Gem’, but these are slower growing and tend to be more columnar. ‘Little Gem’ bears many cup-shaped flowers between April and August, but the buds are sumptuous long before it flowers and those leaves look good all year round.

Clematis armandii comes in many forms, but ‘Apple Blossom’ produces blush-pink starry flowers in spring and these are highly fragrant. ‘Snowdrift’ is a spidery pure-white with narrower high-gloss leaves. All will develop some brown foliage, because this is the plant’s natural way of shedding leaves throughout the year. These can be snipped off with scissors and, if your Clematis armandii rambles outside its allocated space, you can prune it in late-spring or early summer - once it has become established.

Your south-facing wall is also suitable for winter-flowering clematis particularly forms of C. cirrhosa. The form from Majorca, Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica, has ferny dark green leaves and lightly spotted, pendent greenish white bells early in the year. These will be mobbed by any early-emerging bees, so it’s well worth planting. ‘Freckles’ will often flower before Christmas, with more heavily spotted white flowers. All produce leggy plants that can be trained round windows or doors and then you can gaze up into the bells. Do not prune these and be aware that they can shed all their leaves in dry summers, feigning death as effectively as a Pre-Raphaelite poet - but they revive once rain returns.



You could also grow a myrtle, so symbolic of love and immortality that every bridal bouquet has to have a sprig or two. Myrtus communis subsp. tarentina, a compact Mediterranean shrub with pale pink petals that frame fibre-optic arrangements of fine stamens - each tipped in yellow. This can often flower late in the year in the shelter of a wall, but it isn’t scented. If you want scent plant the straight species Myrtus communis.