Garrya

These evergreen shrubs are grown for their long, pendulous catkins, which they bear from February or earlier, until April. They are hardy in the south, but need the protection of a wall in the north. G. elliptica is the only species commonly grown in Britain. The green-grey male catkins, about 20 cm (8 inches) long, are the most spectacular, and male plants are the ones usually available at nurseries and garden centres. If a female plant is bought, and planted nearby, it will produce purple berries. ‘James Roof’ is an American cultivar with especially long catkins, about 30 cm (12 inches) long. Garrya does not like damp sites. It will tolerate any aspect, but a south-facing wall produces the best catkins.

The best kind is Garrya elliptica, a vigorous evergreen with long narrow grey-green catkins freely produced in winter. Male and female catkins are produced on separate bushes and though the males are most handsome in flower, the females will produce pendant clusters of small purple fruits if there is a male nearby to effect pollination. Garrya is a little tender and should be given a sunny sheltered place or may be trained against a wall, in which case forward-growing stems can be shortened in spring when the catkins fade.

General care: Garrya hates being transplanted, so make sure the site is right before you plant, and use container-grown specimens. Garrya grows in any soil, but it must be well drained. Give some protection to the young plant in the first winter or two, especially if they are hard, by means of straw or bracken, or some glass leaning up against the wall. Tidying up is the only pruning needed.

Garrya fremontii

Propagation: Take semi-hardwood cuttings at the end of the summer and root them in 8.75-cm (31/2-inch) pots of a 50-50 peat/sand mixture.

Pests and diseases: Generally trouble-free, but any frost-damaged shoots should be pruned away in the spring.

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