One shrub that I am currently enjoying a great deal in my own garden is a white Potentilla “Abbotswood.” I know that potentilla’s aren’t very highly regarded in the garden media today, but I think that this is due to change. There have been some new developments with a variety of new colours and this will lead to greater interest generally. The old standards were yellow, blooming for a long period, but overused as low-maintenance municipal plantings at the edges of parking lots where their drought-tolerance made them useful. The key to making them interesting in a garden setting is to integrate them with perennials, using only one or two shrubs, and pairing them with interesting partners to bring out the more subtle features of the potentilla. In my garden, the white blooms of “Abbotswood” light up a mostly shady corner, while the yellow-green centres of the blooms, easily overlooked, are highlighted by the similar colour of the blooms of alchemilla mollis that spill around it. The leaves of these two are also a good complement, having the same greyish-green
tint, while contrasting strongly in their shape. The large round leaves of the alchemilla mollis make me appreciate the deeply cut (and fussier) leaves of the potentilla in ways I hadn’t before. Next to this pair, I have a bleeding heart which shares their foliage colour, making the overall effect harmonious, but again contrasting in shape. This grouping thus draws particular attention to foliage texture, heightening the appreciation of this more subtle feature of the plants. I’d like to say that this was my plan all along, but as any gardener knows, many happy plant associations just happen. The art is to enhance these effects when we find them.