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Plant of the week: Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar’ bush clover

Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar’

Why you should plant it

This is the star of the autumn garden. My two-metre shrub is currently covered with small purple/pink blooms and even at this height, it doesn't flop about; it just bends gently and elegantly in place. The stalks are firm and the extended fronds sway in every breeze. So far, the rains haven't battered them and they stand up beautifully even in competition with the big grasses.

Where to plant it

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Don't worry about compost or any other form of feeding: It can take lean and mean. However, it does need soil that is well-drained. And give it lots of sun and lots of room. It will reach full height within two years, and it will spread about 1.5 metres, so take its size seriously. In spring, it looks pathetic, but fear not. Simply cut it back to the ground and watch it put on weight all summer, blooming through the autumn and right to frost time.

What it offers

In August, when the plant gets weird little buds on its arching stalks, you wonder what's up. Soon after, these glorious little pea-like blooms burst open in a mass of breathtaking beauty. I can't imagine a garden without one. On a hardscrabble, sunny surface, this plant can be planted in drifts. Alternatively, you could tuck it in with other shrubs the same size or stick it in a huge pot on its own. (There is a lower, more shrubby form for containers or small spaces called L. 'Yakushima.')

Source and cost

Available at most good nurseries and garden stores for about $18.

For more plant and garden information, visit www.marjorieharris.com.

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