Michelia yunnanensis - Sweetly scented, beautiful white flowers opening from velvety buds and deep green, glossy, small foliage make this tall shrub one to cherish. The flowers open in early spring, last for many weeks and cover the bush from top to toe. Even when not in flower Michelia yunnanensis is one of the best evergreen foliage shrubs you can find. It’s very easy to grow too, happy in warm climates as well as where winters are harsh. Its main requirements are reasonable soil (add compost and fertiliser when planting in poor soils), shelter from sea winds and lots of sun.
This is an easy shrub to keep extra compact by means of a little light pruning of the tip growths after flowering. Light trimming makes it into a stunning hedge too. You can imagine the effect of a hedge row of such a sweetly scented and beautiful shrub.
In a mixed shrub border Michelia yunnanensis is outstanding to combine with such things as blue flowered Dichroa ‘Blue Sapphires’, an evergreen relative of hydrangeas which is not only beautiful but also flowers for month after month in summer and autumn. Combine Michelia yunnanensis with other fragrant shrubs for a startling experience - low growing, white flowered Daphne ‘Alba’ planted in a slightly shaded spot nearby provides a memorable accompaniment. Tall growing, less common Daphne bholua is another shrub with which to create a startling and most pleasant sensation of fragrance.
Camellias enjoy the same conditions as Michelia yunnanensis and if you grow some of the new, early flowering Sasanqua varieties it makes for a very long season.
Low growing plants to grow at the base of Michelia yunnanensis include Hellebores , many of which have attractive foliage as well as stunning flowers in late winter and spring. Look for varieties such as ‘Flash Gordon’ and ‘Thoroughbred Choice’ and the white flowered ‘Moonlight’. Other good, low growers to use include Loropetalum ‘China Pink’, with gorgeous, burgundy coloured, weed suppressing foliage all year round, and ground covering Lithospermum ‘Grace Ward’ which is smothered in startlingly pretty deep blue flowers in early spring.
Michelia yunnanensis will also grow happily in a container for several years. Used this way, it can be positioned by an entranceway or window where the fragrance can be enjoyed to the full.