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For an exotic evergreen with instant drama and structure, plant Fatsia japonica

It makes a rounded bush, usually up to 6ft high, but sometimes as much as 10ft, and its leaves are striking and hand-shaped with a shiny, leathery texture. The flowers open up about now – which accounts for my mentioning it in November. They are creamy white, spherical, and carried in open-branched clusters at the tips of the stems.

Ideally it is best planted in spring, so that it can establish its roots before its first winter outdoors, but you can buy it now and grow it as a container plant – outdoors but sheltered from the worst of the weather – so that you can enjoy its flowers and its leaves as part of a winter pot group.

As far as growing conditions are concerned, the false castor oil plant is wonderfully accommodating. It is unfussy about soil – coping with light soils, heavy clay and chalk – and happiest in light shade, although it will still thrive where it is verging on the gloomy. And the great thing is that it will look good at any time of year.

If at any time it grows too large to fit comfortably into its allotted space, simply chop it back a bit in spring. It will come to no harm. Oh, and no one will see any possible resemblance to Trumpton.

Don’t miss Alan’s column in today’s Daily Express. For more information on his range of gardening products, visit

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