Cascades of Colour with Aubrieta
Aubrieta tumbles about in the garden in late Spring.
Aubrieta has been a very popular garden plant for hundreds of years. With global warming in mind, it is likely to be popular for the foreseeable future as well.
Traditionally pigeon-holed into the rock garden department, Aubrieta can also be grown in other garden sites providing the conditions are correct. These low growing, spreading evergreens thrive in poor to moderately nutritious, well-drained soils and very sunny sites. Once established, they are very drought tolerant, the small evergreen, grey-green, hairy leaves help to contribute to this attribute, helping to minimise water loss from the surface of the leaves.
There are 12 different species of Aubrieta. Most of the many different cultivars available are derived from Aubrieta x cultorum. The different species are found in the wild growing in mountainous regions throughout Europe and into Asia. They grow amongst the scree and fallen rocks.
Strangely, Aubrieta is commonly known as Aubretia, why the ‘I’ was moved from one position to another is a mystery to me. They are named after M Aubriet who was a French botanical artist.
Aubrieta usually grow to a maximum height of about 15cm. When grown in ideal conditions, the maximum spread is unpredictable but is usually between 40cm and 60cm.
For those of you that have to garden on very shallow soils e.g. chalk, Aubrieta is invaluable for adding colour to the spring garden. Aubrieta cultivars start flowering in March, continue throughout April and finish flowering in May. The different cultivars come in a variety of colours; pinks, reds, dark blues, purples and lavender blue. Although the 4-petalled flowers are small, they are borne in profusion. When they have finished flowering, Aubrieta should be cut back quite hard. As with many other garden plants, if you cut back Aubrieta promptly after flowering, you may be rewarded with a second flush of blooms, the plant’s primary aim is to flower, set seed and parent offspring, so if you are quick, you can manipulate this process to your advantage.
Cutting back after flowering is also a tried and tested method if you want to produce new stock. Aubrieta respond by producing plenty of young vegetative shoots that can be used for cuttings. This is the best method for getting the same flower colour from the resulting young plants. If you are feeling a little more adventurous you can let the seed capsules develop after flowering, collect the seed and sow it in the following spring. The seed is easy to germinate but the seedlings will not carry the same flower colour from the parent, you will have to wait in anticipation to see which colour you get.
Aubrieta can be grown at the front of a mixed border, in their traditional home; the rock garden or why not grow them in a hanging basket; before you plant up your more traditional, less hardy traditional basket plants. They are often seen tumbling over walls and their contribution to softening walls across Europe is unsurpassed.
So in this age of water shortages and hosepipe bans, plant some Aubrieta and add some waterfalls of colour to your garden.