Blue flowers always add a sense of calm and coolness to a garden. While red, yellow and orange accentuate the heat, blues and purples seem to moderate it, especially when complemented with some white.
One way to get purple, lavender and white tones in the garden is to plant Brunfelsia latifolia. This clever shrub gives you all these colours on a single plant!
When the flowers first open, they are dark purple with a small white centre, then they fade to lavender, and finally to white, so the shrub has flowers of all three shades at the same time. This lovely multi-coloured effect has led to the most widely used common name for the plant, ‘Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow’. The plant flowers profusely, producing masses of these sweetly scented blooms from spring into summer.
Brunfelsia latifolia is a hardy, long-lived shrub that deserves to be more widely grown. It can grow 2-4m tall and about 2m wide. It will grow in a wide range of conditions, is quite drought tolerant and will withstand wind and coastal exposure. It will flower at a very young age in full sun or semi-shade, and can be trimmed to form a beautiful hedge.
In cooler temperatures, the normally bright green leaves can take on a purple tone, and some may even fall, but the usual colour is restored once the weather warms up again. Young plants can sometimes look a bit lacklustre in a pot, but don’t be deterred. I guarantee that if you plant one, it will quickly become one of your favourites.
This is one of those plants that isn’t especially noticeable in a garden until it bursts into bloom. It’s great for screening, hedging, or as a background shrub in a garden bed. It doesn’t need any special care or fertilising regime.
Choose a position in a sunny or semi-shaded location, and enrich the planting hole with some organic matter before planting. Mulch well, and fertilise in late winter/early spring, and again after flowering has finished. This is the best time to trim, too, if you wish to do so.
There is also a form called Brunfelsia latifolia compacta which, as the name suggests is a bit smaller. It stays much shorter, growing only to about 1m x 1m.
Brunfelsia is one of those old-fashioned shrubs that are the unsung heroes of the garden. It isn’t particularly exotic or highly sought after, but it is such a good performer and deserves to be more widely planted. It works well in cottage or tropical gardens, and, because it responds well to pruning, can also be very effective in formal gardens.