Aubrieta deltoidea

It is curious how few connoisseur gardening writers have ever paid much attention to aubrietas, though William Robinson is an honourable exception. Perhaps they are so commonly grown that the snobs are bored with them. Or perhaps Reginald Farrer, disparaging the whole family of Cruciferae, did them an ill turn. Yet, a dry wall of yellow-grey stone in the Cotswold hills, in Gloucestershire, cur- tamed with mauve aubneta in spring, is an unforgettable sight. Often every cottage in the village contributes a flowery mass.

Aubrieta deltoidea is a native of high, rocky places in southern Europe, and was discovered by the botanist Tournefort in 1700; he took with him on his expedition the botanical artist Claude Aubriet, who drew it on the spot. Today, garden varieties, rather than the species, are usually grown, varying in colour from mauve to various shades of red and purple. The plant is evergreen, mat-forming, long-lived and disease-free, so it has much on its side.

A true rock plant, not much more than 4 inches (10 cm) high, though spreading up to 2 feet (60 cm) in width, it looks best against stone, perhaps on the top of a retaining wall, or beside steps, or even in cracks in paving, where Robinson sug-gested sowing seeds. It likes dry well-drained soil and should be clipped over after flowering to keep the plant as a tidy mound.

It looks well with most of the spring rock plants, like white /ben’s sempervirens, and with the later-flowering species tulips, like Tulipa greigii, growing nearby.

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