May's plant of the month: Cytisus 

A perfect shrub for difficult positions in the garden, easy to grow and low maintenance too

Cytisus, or broom, is in the same family as the gorse we see growing throughout Devon, but much more refined. There is a lot of variety within the genus, but the main thing they do have in common is that they all have colourful pea-like flowers, none more striking than Cytisus × boskoopii 'Hollandia'


Great for gardens

Growing to a height and spread of 1.5m (5ft), it flowers before many perennials have grown sufficiently to hide the display of flowers, so it can be placed towards the back of a border. Try and get the position right first time as all Cytisus resent transplanting. The loose, overhanging branches tend to flop; light pruning after flowering will keep it more compact, but do not cut into old wood. It will usefully tolerates drought, is frost hardy and can be grown in pots on sunny terraces or patios. Elsewhere, it is suited to cottage, coastal, and gravel gardens.

Stipa tenuissimaIt is true to say that many Cytisus are various shades of yellow, but ‘Hollandia’ has flowers of cream and dark pink that stand out in any border especially when planted in front of a dark green conifer.


Planting ideas

This plant requires full sun in free draining acid soil, the same conditions that we have created in the Mediterranean Garden. Here we have two specimens in south facing borders, recreating the conditions found in its natural habitats of Europe, West Asia and North Africa. It grows informally contrasting with wispy Stipa tenuissima and the elliptic, leathery grey-green leaves of Olea europaea 'Leccino' (olive tree); the small yellow flowers of intricately branched Corokia cotoneaster 'Ohau Yellow' contrast well with the red flowers of the Cytisus

Cytisus makes a lovely flowering shrub for a difficult position; tolerant of conditions that would make lesser plants suffer, including poor soil, drought and exposed conditions. So, if you want a colourful splash in your spring borders, then take a look in the RHS Garden Rosemoor plant centre where several Cytisus cultivars are available this month.

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