Escallonia

Escallonias are evergreen shrubs valued for their late flowering in June and July when not many other shrubs are in bloom.

These South American shrubs are much favoured for their pretty red or pink flowers, sometimes borne right through the summer. They are hardy only in the south and west: elsewhere they need the protection of a wall. All are evergreen. The most popular species is E. macrantha, a favourite in the southwest for hedging and screening, and in seaside towns for its ability to stand up to salt-laden winds. More useful is its cultivar, ‘C.F. Ball’, which is hardier and bears its red flowers right through the spring and summer. Other cultivars suitable for hedges or screening include ‘Donard Seedling’ (1.8 m (6 ft), pink fragrant flowers in June and July), ‘Crimson Spire’ (quick-growing, red flowers, 1.8m (6 ft), and ‘Slieve Donard’ 2.1 m (7 ft), pink flowers in June, probably the hardiest of all).

The plants originally came from South America, mainly from Chile, and there are now about 40 hybrids. The half-hardy varieties need protection in winter but otherwise they are generally very robust and healthy.

Escallonias vary in size from a compact 90cm (3ft) up to about 220cm (7ft) high, with a good spread producing a self-supporting dome shape. The bushy growth may be thinned out or a hedging effect can be created by trimming after flowering. The trimmings can be used for cuttings.

E. Amato and E. virgata have white flowers. E. Virgo to, which grows to about 90cm (3ft), is probably the hardiest species.

Masses of pink flowers on a small, compact shrub make the variety E. x exoniensis ‘Frades’ (E. frodesii) very popular.Escallonia

E. macrantha is an excellent choice for seaside locations as it is resistant to salt air. However, it grows very tall and will not thrive in cold areas.

Display ideas

The shiny, dark green leaves set off the blooms which cluster all along the arching branches. They can be trained up a wall or allowed to cascade over the edge of the planter or tub. The shrubs can be planted in troughs and placed outside on the patio to make good hedging. The woody stems prevent trailing varieties from being accidentally broken off or damaged by wind on a porch or balcony but the plant does not like draughty or windblown positions. An ideal place for them is against a sheltered sunny wall. They must be protected from frost in winter.

Looking after your plant

Escallonia does well out of doors in troughs or tubs. Avoid windy or draughty places.

Plant in autumn or early spring in well-drained compost rich in humus. Feed weekly to ensure continuous flowering.

Propagation

Take semi-hard cuttings in August, about 8cm (3in) long. Dip the cut end into a hormone rooting powder and plant in a mixture of equal parts moist peat compost and sand. Cover with a polythene bag and keep at a temperature of 16°— 18°C (61°-65°F) until roots are established. When hardened off, plant Escallonia outside in well-drained soil-based compost in large tubs or a patio border.

Pests And Diseases

This is a robust shrub provided it is not affected by frost. It is not normally attacked by insects and it resists most diseases.

Transparent leaves and discoloured stems, stained with purple, mean the plant has silver-leaf fungus.

Treatment: Cut back all shoots with purple-stained tissue or with transparent leaves. Paint large shoots with a wound-sealing paint. Repeat treatment as necessary.

PLANT CARE

This is a very easy shrub to care for, as long as it is not left out in really harsh winters. Escallonias are happy in any well-drained soil, including chalk. They like a sunny site. Plant in April, 45 cm (18 inches) apart if they are being used for hedging, and 75 cm (30 inches) apart for screens. Routine pruning is not needed, and hedges should be lightly pruned after flowering, rather than trimmed, or you will get few flowers the following year.

  • Potting: Repot your plant every year as it gradually increases in size. Provide good drainage underneath and use well-drained, humus-rich, soil-based compost.
  • Water regularly through the summer. Ensure that the compost does not become waterlogged.
  • Feeding: Feed with a general fertilizer once a week during the flowering period.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: Find a sunny, sheltered position for your plant, preferably against a wall.
  • Temperature: Summer temperatures are fine. Ideally, overwinter at not less than 5°C (41°F). Avoid the fatal combination of very low temperature, frozen soil and brilliant winter sun.

Buying Tips

  • This shrub is generally available from good nurseries or garden centres throughout the year. Buy in spring to avoid problems of overwintering.
  • Choose a well-shaped shrub. Avoid any plants with purple-stained tissue or transparent leaves.
  • Escallonias can live for many years if protected in winter.

Escallonias are lovely evergreen shrubs that have a mass of blooms in late summer. They are ideal for tubs on patios or balconies but need protection from cold conditions.

There are deciduous escallonias but the most useful garden varieties are all evergreen or semi-evergreen with rather small shining green leaves and small bell-shaped flowers freely produced in summer They have a reputation for tenderness but there are plenty of good kinds that will stand a lot of frost, notably Escallonia langleyensis with arching stems and rose-pink flowers and the numerous varieties associated with it. These include Apple Blossom, pink and white; Donard Radiance, rose red, and edinensis, red buds, pale pink flowers. All will make big bushes up to 8 ft. high.

E. rubra can grow even taller and is frequently used as a hedge or screen plant near the sea, but is not so reliable inland. Crimson Spire is a fast-growing, erect form of it with crimson flowers. All these varieties will grow in any reasonably fertile soil, but E. virgata, which is deciduous, white flowered and notably hardy, dislikes lime and chalk and needs an acid soil. All can be thinned in spring or even cut back severely at the sacrifice of a season’s flowering. When grown as hedges they should be trimmed in summer after flowering.

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