Sometimes you find yourself somewhere so grim it is really just one plant which gives you a lift.

This street depressed the pants off me.

But, as I wrenched my small car into an impossibly small space, I saw out of the corner of my eye that it contained an old friend:

Abelia x grandiflora:

Evergreen really here, I find this one of those endlessly flexible shrubs which flower for a long season and are remarkably tolerant of both situation and abuse!

Best in full sun and shelter.

Tolerant of some shade, although you will not get the reddish calyx colour which gives the bi-colour intensity of display:

Flowering is best on the laterals of last year’s growths.

So in your pruning it pays to leave a good proportion of these.

It is one of those shrubs therefore that the classic pruning technique of digging deep, metaphorically speaking you understand (!!), into the shrub and pruning out growth right to the base in the Spring when necessary to reduce size will deliver the best results. This also has the desirable effect of reinvigorating from below. And we all need that!

That said if you are really harsh and end up with a council-trimmed ball, at best you will end up with some flower on the earliest of this season’s growth or at worst a dome of lustrous, spear shaped, deep green foliage. You can’t really lose!

Actually the reason I respect it most is that if you have ever had to prepare a public garden for an open day in early September as I once did every year for 13 years this will be in flower.

And even better, if you provide teas and put flowers on the table, (and why would you not?), this comes into its own for that as well. 

A handful of this in a little vase is a complete flower display in itself.

Dart some Knautia macedonica in as you gather your posey of stems together:

 and you have magic.

Touches of pure white or hot pink or purpley blue could also be added for greater show off complexity, but they aren’t really necessary.

A little floristry always impresses.

Not for nothing were you taught how to decorate the mayor’s parlour on the horticultural courses of old!