Q: My father-in-law has given me a cutting from a plant which has been flowering in his garden since the beginning of December. He can’t remember its name, but says that this is the earliest he has seen it bloom. Can you identify it and tell me how best to grow it?
A: It’s Iberis sempervirens, aka the perennial candytuft, one of those lovely little flowers which never seem to get the acclaim they deserve.
It’s brilliant white blooms normally begin to appear in early spring but the mild weather of last autumn obviously persuaded it to bloom early. It often flowers for several weeks.
It spreads, slowly, to form a low mat of dark green, evergreen leaves, and it’s ideal for most spots because it will grow in sheltered and exposed sites, in full sun or shade – and it keeps coming back year after year.
Grow it in a rockery or let it tumble down a wall and it will rarely disappoint. Plus it’s easy to propagate.