“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.
‘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.
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?