I grow amelanchiers from seed because not even in a mist unit will they condescend to root from cuttings with any degree of certainty. Amelanchier canadensis, the Shad Bush, comes very high on my list of indispensable shrubs. Even in winter the graceful form of the plant is obvious.
In April each branch forms into a plethora of white blossom and the autumn leaf colour is pale yellow, deepening to copper red. In my garden it has taken 20 years for this splendid shrub to reach 14 ft. Where necessary, pruning, of which it shows a remarkable tolerance, should be aimed at emphasising the umbrella shape, and winter is the best time to perform this operation.
The Paperbark Maple, A. griseum, when well grown in a sheltered position, is a magnificent spectacle. The divided leaves have a grey undertone throughout the summer and they contrast well with the polished orange bark. In October the leaves fall in a blaze of orange and scarlet. I grow A. japonicum aureum surrounded with primroses in the spring, Gentiana sino-ornata for the autumn. Growth could he described as painfully slow, but when the garden is small this characteristic becomes a virtue. In spring the soft yellow of the leaves makes a patch of sunshine in the border while during the summer the green is relieved by an edging of red.
Andromeda polifOlia compacta could hardly be called versatile for it demands an acid peaty soil. The grey leaves with clusters of bright pink flowers from May onwards, sometimes into July, make this a splendid ground cover plant. I mulch the bed each year so that the branches root themselves to spread the group wider.
Delicate and lovely, the Japanese Maples have a timelessness that makes even a young plant seem old, or contradictory though this may be, an old plant seem young. I certainly would not garden without them, for they will fit into any garden landscape from the ritualistic formality of a Japanese garden to the fresh flexibility of a heathered bank. Late spring frosts or a bitter east wind will scar the young leaves for the first few years after planting, so provide a shelter of quicker-growing shrubs to protect them, for all the virtue and garden worth of these trees is contained in their foliage.
In a quiet corner of the garden, with a wisteria-covered wall in the background, an ailanthus will add an air of rather oriental elegance and will provide shade under which even the planter will be able to sit in contemplation long before reaching his dotage. It is propagated by root cuttings which are taken 3 to 4 in. long from the fleshy portion of the roots. The top is cut straight and the bottom on a slant so that there is no mistake when the pieces are lined out from the sand plunge in April.