Posts Tagged ‘evergreen shrubs’

Choisya ‘White Dazzler’

June 10, 2010

I’ve been intending to blog about choisyas (commonly known as Mexican orange blossom) for a while. They’re not among my favourite shrubs, most making uncompromisingly solid lumps of green (or, in the case of Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ bright yellow), but there are a couple I’m fond of.

A newcomer is a hybrid, ‘White Dazzler’. I have a small specimen of this that I’ve recently repotted (it will stay in its pot until I decide where to plant it). It is similar to ‘Aztec Pearl’ – also a hybrid, and one of its parents, and the one I usually recommend ­– but the narrow leaves are a lighter green. Apart from its white flowers (finished now), it has a hidden appeal – the leaves are scented.

The Mexican orange blossom flowers profusely in late spring

This unusual characteristic has been inherited from C. dumosa, its other parent. To appreciate this to the full, plant the shrub by the side of a path so you can brush its leaves as you walk past to release its sweet fragrance. There may well be a second (though lesser) flush of flowers in late summer/autumn.

Overall, ‘Aztec Pearl’ is probably the more elegant plant, being a darker green. But ‘White Dazzler’ is a worthwhile addition to any garden.

Viburnum rhytidophyllum

May 15, 2010

I’ve been asked to recommend some plants for a shady part of a garden, and I suddenly remembered Viburnum rhytidophyllum, a handsome shrub with rather an old-fashioned look to it.

Viburnum rhytidophyllum flowers in May

It’s a tough evergreen, with corrugated, thick green leaves with felty undersides. The heads of dull creamy white flowers are opening now – the whole thing is recognisably a viburnum but unlike any of the others. While it might eventually grow quite big (easily to 2 metres in both directions), it would tolerate pruning.

No doubt it would be best in full sun, but my experience of it is that it is remarkably tolerant and could be expected to perform well in pretty much any situation. In shade it might get a bit leggy in time but I’d expect it to stay healthy and give no trouble. A versatile plant.

Sarcococca humilis

March 9, 2010

I referred to winter-flowering Sarcococca humilis (Christmas box or sweet box) in my March newsletter. Not entirely sure that this is the preferred name these days, but it’s the one I continue to use. The one I bought – quite a few years now – was labelled ‘Purple Stem’, which apparently belongs to a form of S. hookeryana var. dignya. Who knows?

Sarcococca humilis has glossy green leaves that stay on the plant year round

It’s a nice-looking thing, with its glossy evergreen leaves, but it does not do well for me, failing to make good growth though reasonably generous with its sickly-sweet (but tiny) white flowers. From a trawl of the internet, any problem appears to be solely mine, as other gardeners manage to have it thriving.

It may be the heaviness of my soil that gives it grief – it’s reputedly tolerant of lime and shade (both of which it has in my garden). Books I have consulted are a little vague on the matter – perhaps someone can enlighten me?

Osmanthus decorus

January 19, 2010

Readers of my January newsletter may well be wondering about Osmanthus decorus, the shrub I mentioned.

This handsome evergreen is from the Caucasus, home of a great many garden plants, and I rate it highly, not only for its sweetly scented white spring flowers but for its generally understated style. As you can see from the picture, the leaves, presented flat, are substantial in texture but elegantly tapering – and unblemished by disease. They are somewhat similar to those of a rhododendron, but without the droop. And, also unlike the rhodos, this plant tolerates lime, with none of the yellowing of the leaves that can afflict some other evergreens.

The spring flowers of Osmanthus decorus, while not showy, have a sweet scent that carries through the garden

In a nice open – but sheltered – situation, the plant would probably grow as a neat dome. Shaded as it is in my garden, some of the branches are starting to stretch out uncomfortably, spoiling the shape. I’ll be giving it a prune to bring it into line after it has flowered.

Phillyrea angustifolia

November 3, 2009

It’s time I put in a plug for one of my all-time favourite plants, Phillyrea angustifolia – there’s no common name, this is one of those instances where you just have to get your head round the Latin. Like box (Buxus), this evergreen shrub tolerates hard pruning, and was often used in combination with box in 17th-century knot gardens. But it makes a much more open, elegant plant.


Phillyrea angustifolia has firm, flame like leaves that are apparently disease proof

Angustifolia means ‘with narrow leaves’, and if you thought they looked like those of an olive (but green), you’d be on to something – the two plants are indeed related. But unlike the olive, the phillyrea is bone hardy. I have two, planted as a pair that herald the start of a path that leads down my garden.

I am particularly attached to them – I bought them at Rosemary Verey’s garden near Cirencester some twenty years ago. Maybe some of the magic of that place lives on in my garden. Mrs Verey speculated that the plant’s lack of a common name had much to do with its fall from favour – that and the difficulties of propagating it. Apparently, cuttings have to be of two-year-old wood and taken in November – that’s now, isn’t it?