Plantswoman FIONA EDMOND, who owns the award-winning Green Island Gardens in Ardleigh, shares her gardening tips. Today the topic is Styrax.

Otherwise known as Snowbell tree, Styrax are beautiful small ornamental trees producing masses of sweetly scented flowers in late spring.

They make lovely specimen trees for small gardens and are relatively easily grown. As such they deserve to be much more widely recognised. There are over a hundred species of Styrax mostly throughout Asia although only a handful are cultivated.

The most easily available and easy to grow variety is Styrax japonicus, or the Japanese Styrax tree. It has a graceful form growing to 3 metres, with horizontal branches bearing numerous clusters of sweet scented white flowers with gold stamens in their masses in June.

Brentwood Live: Pink Chimes-  Styrax japonicus have flowers that flush pink

The scent may not be appreciated fully during the day, however come evening time their heady scent is released and wafts around the whole area. I have one specimen growing in a corner of the woodland close to wild honeysuckle clambering up an ancient oak tree. Next to it is a mock orange, or Philadelphus and so for six weeks in late spring through early summer an evening stroll is rewarded with a feast of the most intoxicating succession of scents.

Styrax hemsleyana, otherwise known as Chinese Snowbell tree is native to China and was introduced to the UK in 1900. It flowers a couple of weeks later than S. japonicus and it bears racemes of downwards hanging bell shaped white flowers amongst light green heart shaped leaves which make it an attractive foliage tree even when not in flower. The leaves colour well in autumn.

Styrax obassia, also known as Big leaf Styrax also has larger leaves than S japonicus, more like S. hemsleyana, but they are downy on the underside. It has racemes of the most scented white bell shaped flowers but they are downy on the underside. It is perhaps slightly less hardy than S. japonicus.

Styrax americanus differs from the Asian species in its white flowers which have much narrower petals. It is found naturally in swamps or on flood plains where the roots are frequently underwater for considerable lengths of time.

Brentwood Live: gardening column

There are also modern hybrid selections available such as Styrax japonicus ‘Pink Chimes’ with flowers flushed pink as the name suggests, and S.japonicus ‘Evening Light’ which has dark purple leaves, however for me the purity of the white scented flowers of the species cannot be beaten.

Styrax can be grown in full sun or partial shade, preferring acidic soil, but will grow in any moist, loamy, non limey soil. They do not like cold drying winds so are best grown in a sheltered spot. Given the right conditions they are non-demanding plants. The hanging flowers are most easily viewed from the underside, so planting on a bank or overhanging water is particularly effective. The roots resent too much competition which makes them ideal specimen tree for a lawn.

All the above varieties can be seen growing at Green island Gardens, Ardleigh.

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Brentwood Live: Green Island Gardens - Fiona Edmond.