“One for sorrow, two for joy …” begins a rhyme about magpies. But the solitary magpie in my garden has been giving me joy for over ten yeas now – stachyurus ‘Magpie.’

Stachyurus are shrubs of woodland, flowering in early spring before the leaves emerge. The pale yellow blooms look like a cross between a hazel catkin and a wisteria raeceme, but hang rigidly rather than dangling in the wind.

Stachyurus 'Magpie' (close-up) with bee - 2015

‘Magpie’ started life as a praecox species, may be listed as chinensis, but now the botanists have removed any species from the name. Whatever it is called, it makes a shrub about six feet high and a little less across.

Stachyurus 'Magpie' - 2015

The leaves  are variegated, with broad white margins, and this causes a challenge to its cultivation. Because the amount of chlorophyll is limited, the plant is weak and slow growing in its youth, getting stronger as it gets older.


The advice I was given – and which worked – was to grow it in a pot for about three or four years, overwintering it under glass, until it was fighting to get out of the container. At that point, it was planted in a sheltered position against a fence.  The recommendation is for an aspect in part shade, but I gave it a south-facing spot but with the roots in the shade, since when it has gone from strength to strength.

Who needs two magpies for joy?



2 thoughts on “Magpie

  1. Interesting to hear that growing it on in a pot for a while, and coddle in winter is recommended. Wish I had read this post earlier… My tiny one (which is still in a pot) sat outside all winter. It’s still tiny, but alive, and just starting to push out new leaves. I will treat it better next winter.


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