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Garrya elliptica - Silk Tassel Bush - how to grow 

Garrya elliptica is an evergreen shrub suited for growing against walls or fences. The catkins (tassels) are produced in profusion from mid-winter through until early spring. Once seem in flower, you will realise how it gets the common name of Silk Tassel Bush. Male and female catkins are on separate plants. It is said that the female flowers are more attractive than the male - though the male catkins are normally longer. On a well grown bush, the male catkins can be 4in long. I have seen them nearer to 6in.

How do you tell if it is male or female? The male catkins will have pollen - the female plant will have little brown berries!

Garrya looks best in a sunny position, but will do well in part shade.  For me, it always looks best when it can be blessed by any winter evening sun, as happens from time to time. This really brings the catkins to the fore, instead of just blending in in the winter gloom.

 (Silk Tassel Bush) January 1st

Garrya eliptica - Silk Tassel Bush If Garrya elliptica were to flower in mid summer rather than the depths of winter, it would not be as important a shrub - other than for its evergreen wall screening ability. However, in mid-winter - and this one was photographed on a very cold January 1st - it makes for a spectacular addition to the winter garden. As the male flowers mature, they show signs of pale yellow pollen, which adds to their beauty.

Where to Grow

The Silk Tassel Bush is really best against a wall or fence, though it will also grow as a free standing large shrub in a border - or even a lawn centerpiece, for it can be base planted with other interesting plants for the summer months. If it is to be planted in an 'open' situation, then it would requite a sheltered spot.

Garrya eliptica is generally hardy, though can suffer setback in severe winters. Together with this it is prone to wind scorch of the evergreen foliage, though this seems not to affect the health of the shrub overall - just unsightly.

Seaside planting is not a problem, for it will withstand salt-laden winds, and as with several other shrubs and trees, seem to cope better with coastal winds that inland winds.

Garrya will grow in a wide range of normal garden soils, but will not tolerate prolonged waterlogging in the winter months. It will grow on clay or sandy soils, and anything in between. The main requirement being free draining.

Problems with Garrya elliptica

Disfiguration of the foliage from severe wind scr\orch can be unsightly if grown in exposed situations, but rarely a problem when grown against a wall.

The leaf scorch should not be confused with the fungal disease 'leaf spot' which frequently occurs. Preventative treatment with a fungal spray is best idea.

After the catkins, you will have a grey-green evergreen for the rest of the year!

Propagation of Garrya Elliptica

Seed - if it can be obtained, should be sown in autumn - in a cool place and allowed to overwinter, with some germination happening in the following spring. It required a cold few months to break the seed dormancy, and aid germination, so do not keep in heated propagator.

Semi-ride or ripe cuttings have always worked well for me with Garrya elliptica - simply put three or four in pot of rooting compost, and leave in cold-frame for the winter months. If there has been no rooting by mid spring, and the cutting still seems healthy, then they can be placed in a position where they can receive gentle bottom heat.

How to prune Garrya   :  Shrubs main page   :    Other Flowering Plants for January

By David Hughes - info@gardenseeker.com