Posts Tagged ‘hard pruning’

On eucalyptus

January 25, 2010

I have a new group of design students and told them I’d post some info on eucalyptus – and spell out my objections to these.

Frankly, they belong in their native Australia, where they are an important part of the ecology, seemingly tolerant of both drought and flooding (as, incidentally, are date palms). Far from home, I find they just do not integrate with northern hemisphere plants. Besides, ultimately, they can make huge trees, of rather indeterminate form.

Eucalyptus gunnii is the species most commonly seen, grown chiefly for its silvery young foliage. To ensure this is in ready supply, plants should be cut back hard every year in late winter or early spring. This also keeps them in check – I have come across countless neglected specimens, rather straggly-looking and dull grey in colour. Even with regular pruning, I think they are best in town gardens where the planting is deliberately restricted.

The snow gum has outstandingly beautiful bark

The delightfully named snow gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. niphophila) is probably the nicest, with beautiful peeling bark and a tendency to produce several spreading trunks from the base. But proceed with caution – it needs space.

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?