It is possible to have forty shades of green in the garden at this time of the year by growing evergreen shrubs. They come in a wide range of colours in addition to green, such as bronze, yellow, gold and variegated foliage.
Elaeagnus is an evergreen shrub that is grown for its foliage. Elaeagnus augustifolia ‘Quicksilver’ is a fast-growing shrub with silvery leaves. It can tolerate many growing conditions, such as very dry soil and coastal salt winds, which makes it ideal as a hedge in coastal gardens. Elaeagnus ‘Gilt Edge’ has green leaves with a golden yellow margin. Elaeagnus ‘Maculata’ has dark-yellow leaves with a green margin.
The ilex (holly) is one of our most beautiful native plants, with its waxy, variably shaped leaves offering year-round colour and interest. The flowers are insignificant and are followed by bright red berries on the female plants in winter. A male plant must be present in the garden or nearby to produce berries.
They will grow in moist, well-drained soil. Variegated hollies need full sun to produce the best leaf colour. Planting or transplanting is best done in late winter or early spring. Large plants do not transplant very well.
Free-standing specimens can be pruned to shape, start the pruning in the early years after planting. Hollies make excellent hedges or windbreaks and should be trimmed in late spring. Ilex altaclerenis ‘Golden King’ is a female plant, despite its name, that can grow up to 20 feet tall, has mottled green leaves with a broad golden margin and has sparsely produced berries. Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Queen’ is a slow growing male plant with a creamy margin on the leaves. Ilex aquifolium ‘Ferox’ (hedgehog holly) is a large male plant that can grow up to 50 feet tall, its leaves are covered with a large number of spines.
Hollies can be slow to establish themselves and can take a number of years to grow into a sizeable shrub. If you want to have berries on your holly for Christmas, remove a few branches with berries and cover them on the lawn with a piece of plastic, bring the branches with berries into the house just before Christmas.
Aucuba (laurel) is a plant often found in old gardens, it is not planted very much in new gardens. It is a useful plant for shaded areas, as it can grow, even thrive, under the shade of large trees. Aucuba (spotted laurel) is an evergreen shrub that grows 10 feet tall.
The plant can be pruned to control its size. The female plants produce bright-red berries in the autumn but to produce berries a male cultivar must also be planted. Variegated cultivars are ideal for brightening up a dull corner by adding hints of bright yellow or gold. Aucuba crotonifolia is a female plant with leaves liberally splashed and speckled with yellow spots. The variegated plants like partial shade from cold winds that scorch the leaves.
Jobs for the week
Insulate the greenhouse using bubble polythene. Check each week that plants overwintered under glass are healthy and pick off discoloured leaves and dead flowers, which encourage diseases. Make sure plants remain pest free. Water plants more sparingly now that conditions are turning cooler and make sure there is good air circulation around their foliage, to prevent fungal diseases.
Garden Club Notices
The Limerick Flower and Garden Club will hold the monthly meeting on Tuesday December 13 at the Greenhills Hotel, Ennis Road in Limerick. It will be an evening of festive Christmas themes.