Elaeagnus

Sturdy evergreen and deciduous shrubs of which the former, grown mainly for their foliage, are the most useful in gardens. Elaeagnus are particularly useful for screening or hedging, especially near the sea, owing to their ability to stand up to salt-laden winds. Some are deciduous, but the three sorts described and recommended here are all evergreens. E. x ebbingei, introduced from Holland in the 1930s, is particularly useful because of its speed of growth. It will reach a height of 2.7-3m (9-l0 ft) a few years after planting.

Elaeagnus pungens maculata, with dark green leaves heavily splashed with yellow, is one of the brightest of all golden-variegated shrubs and a good bush catching the sun is a heartwarming sight in winter. It will make a bush 10 ft. or more high and through, but can be kept much smaller by annual pruning in May. Its small silvery-white flowers, produced in autumn, often pass unnoticed but are delightfully scented. E. macrophylla has similar flowers, makes a wide-spreading bush 8 ft. or more high and has large leaves, silvery all over at first but becoming green on the upper surface as they age. It can be pruned in the same way as E. pungens.

Both kinds prefer neutral or moderately acid and fairly fertile soils, can be grown in sun or shade and make useful windbreaks near the sea. There is also a quick-growing hybrid between the two species named E. ebbingei, a useful shrub where shelter is required.

Its leaves are silvery grey, but there is a named variety, ‘Gilt Edge’, which has yellow leaf margins. E. macrophylla, which goes back to Victorian times, is much slower growingbut eventually also reaches 2.7-3m (9-10 ft). Its inconspicuous flowers, produced in the autumn, are very fragrant. E. pungens, which can grow to 4.6m (15 ft), has a number of named cultivars that do not grow so tall or so fast as the species: ‘Dicksonii’ (broad yellow leaf margins), ‘Frederickii (yellow leaves with green margins, grows only to 1.8 m [6 ft]), ‘Maculata’ (variegatedyellow and green, to 2.4m [8 ft]).

Elaeagnus

General care: These plants are very accommodating as to site and soil, being happy in poor, thin conditions, and tolerant of chalk. Plant container-grown specimens in April, 45 cm (18 inches) apart if grown for hedging, 90 cm (3 ft) apart if for screens. Shorten the shoots to encourage bushy growths. No routine pruning is needed, but hedges should be trimmed in mid-summer. Remove any all-green shoots as soon as they appear on variegated varieties.

Propagation: From semi-hardwood cuttings taken in summer.

Pests and diseases: Generally trouble-free.

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