Dip into this stunning shrub for a stack of bonus summer surprises

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MANY of us grow weigela with its foxglove-like funnels in ruby red, pink and various shades in between.

Fewer plant its more visually-similar first cousin, the kolkwitzia or Beauty Bush, which many gardeners claim to be more graceful.

Now comes a third member of the family which you may struggle even to discover at the garden centre – or maybe you’ve never heard of it.

Its name – dipelta, an import from the scrub and woodlands of China, and in need of some serious PR exposure.

Scarcely any gardening books in my collection give dipelta a mention, though the exception is that ever-reliable horticultural sage, Dr David Hessayon, in his Expert series on shrubs.

There are plenty of plus-points surrounding this little-known deciduous gem – it’s hardy, trouble-free and easy over soil demands, though if dipelta could talk it would surely say “I don’t mind growing on lime or chalk,” always hoping, of course, that such comments won’t be in Chinese!

There are more bonuses to consider, but first it’s worth noting that of dipelta’s modest clan of four species only two are readily available – or not so readily – on tap.

Dipelta floribunda is perhaps the most favoured species,  bearing yellow-marked, pale pink tubes to 1¼in long in late spring and early summer.

This one is fragrant, though the species I grow – yunnanensis – does challenge my nostrils with its tubular, orange-marked, creamy-white flowers that reach about 1in long and woo those busy bees like butterflies around the buddleia.

Floribunda is an upright grower while yunnanensis prefers to arch its slender branches in more elegant style.

And – two more perks – both species produce delicate paper bracts that surround the fruits and both display attractive silvery or pale brown peeling bark.

You won’t get these sort of freebies from either weigela or kolkwitzia!

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¶ Delightful dipelta: Top – the foxglove-like funnels and the slender stems which are starting to peel; above – the creamy, papery bracts that add another layer of interest.

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