At the far end of the Wisley Pinetum (come out of the restaurant, turn right, keep going) is the trials area where the spectacular buddleja trial has been such a treat. And in the same area, this year will be the last year for the trial of weigela with coloured or variegated foliage.
In recent years there’s been quite a flurry of new introductions in this group, some with variegated foliage and some with purple foliage – and both, of course, also with spring flowers. Six entries to the trial have stood out so far.
The old favourite known as Weigela 'Florida Variegata', with its creamy variegated leaves, has been popular for many decades and although it occasionally reverts, in general it’s very well behaved. Weigela florida 'Suzanne' is more vigorous, taller, and with a narrower variegation while ‘Sunny Princess’, also variegated, is relatively compact and its creamy edge is also relatively slender. The creamy variegated ‘Praecox Variegata’, with its honey scented flowers, also provoked admiration as did Monet (‘Verweig').
Monet (‘Verweig') (above and left, click to enlarge) is noticeably shorter and neater than other varieties, and is being suggested as a container plant, and for edging. Rather shy to flower, when it does its pale rosy pink blooms harmonise well with the foliage. Sometimes seen as My Monet, I’ve noticed that the variegation is whiter in shade and tends towards pink in full sun.
Finally, one dark-leaved variety has been catching the attention of the panel of expert assessors. Naomi Campbell ('Bokrashine') is neat and bushy with dark purple-brown foliage and deep purple-red flowers.
But this trial is not over. With so many combining good flowers and good foliage – and all being easy to grow – these are amongst the best of shrubs for small gardens. Be sure to head down there in the spring, take a look and decide for yourself.