Myrtus communis

This beautiful shrub is not hardy in a cold garden, but may find a secure home against a warm south wall in the open ground or in a pot. Though it is said to originate in the Middle East, it is familiar to many of us as a plant of the maquis, or wild scrub, of the Mediterranean, along with cistus, lavender, sage and many other scented herbs.

It is a very leafy evergreen shrub, smothered in late summer with small, white, scented flowers which grow from the axils of the glossy, pointed leaves, which are aromatic. The flowers have five petals and are crowded with pale yellow stamens, so that the whole effect is of a plant as starry as the Milky Way. In the open ground, myrtle will reach a height of 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.6 m), but restricted in a pot will be perhaps 4 feet (1.2 m) tall, and can be protected with netting from winter frosts. The flowers are sometimes followed by inky fruits.

In legend, myrtle has long been associated with love, from the ancient Greeks, who held it sacred to the goddess of Love, to the present day, when a sprig is often included in a bride’s bouquet.

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