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How and When to Prune Garrya Eliptica

Pruning Garrya Eliptica

Garrya eliptica is one of those shrubs that rarely - if ever - need pruning. However, if the need arises, there is a time and method that should be noted to ensure continuing crops of drooping tassels that this shrub is grown for.

Garrya eliptica is best grown against a wall or sturdy fence, so can over time be a bit overbearing - Something that should be borne in mind at planting or design time, for it rarely responds in the normal manner when the secateurs are used.

As well as being suitable as a wall shrub, it is quite spectacular as a large stand alone specimen shrub. I this case there are several ways in which it can be trained and pruned.

I all cases of pruning your Garrya - the early spring is best - as soon as the silk tassel flowers have become unsightly! This alone is a good reason for a light trim, for it does tend to look a little messy right after flowering - before the new foliage starts to emerge.

Wall and Fence-Grown Garrya Pruning

Garrya elliptica - the Silk Tassel bush showing masses of drooping catkin tassels.

If you are happy with the overall shape - and size, then simply snip - or clip - off the faded catkin tassels as soon as possible, and in any event before the new leaf shoots start to emerge. Avoid cutting back into old wood - unless you want new growth to train along the wall or fence. If grown flat against the wall, it can be trimmed with garden clippers in order to keep it neat and tidy against the fence. This will encourage new growth over the whole face of the plant, ands will not therefore be too rampant.

If training is required, cut one or two (no more) branches back hard to where you want the new training stems to grow from.

New growth from these low cuts will be vigorous and may require further trimming of the laterals to train the new shoots where you want them to go.

Once this has been done, and the shoots sent out new laterals, then climb back over time to match in with the rest of the wall shrub.

Pruning free standing Garrya

Garrya shrubs and small trees are best left un-pruned - other than trimming off the old faded tassels if required.

This does not preclude the normal husbandry pruning of removing diseased or broke branches - or indeed any that need cutting off for aesthetic reasons.

The shrubs grown in this way, can often be renewed by way of rejuvenation pruning - which is best carried out over the course of a few years - selecting branches that fall into line with your personal desires. Be prepared for some vigorous regrowth from the pruning cuts, and train as required throughout the first year.

Hedge Grown Garrya

A rare but useful way of growing Garrya is as a large evergreen hedge. Only uses the clippers once - again right after flowering to ensure time for new flowering wood to grow ready for next winter's display of tassles. Don't be tempted to carry out a further cut later in the year. If grown as a hedge, you will have to be prepared for a little 'non-conformity later in the summer! But you will be rewarde with drooping braches full of the silk tassels.

Garrya elliptica - Silk Tassel Bush

Garrya elliptica is an evergreen shrub suited for growing against walls or fences. The catkins (tassels) are produced in profusion from mid-winter through until early spring. Once seem in flower, you will realise how it gets the common name of Silk Tassel Bush. Male and female catkins are on separate plants. It is said that the female flowers are more attractive than the male - though the male catkins are normally longer. On a well grown bush, the male catkins can be 4in long. I have seen them nearer to 6in.

How do you tell if it is male or female? The male catkins will have pollen - the female plant will have little brown berries!

Garrya looks best in a sunny position, but will do well in part shade. For me, it always looks best when it can be blessed by any winter evening sun, as happens from time to time. This really brings the catkins to the fore, instead of just blending in in the winter gloom.

If Garrya elliptica were to flower in mid summer rather than the depths of winter, it would not be as important a shrub - other than for its evergreen wall screening ability. However, in mid-winter - and this one was photographed on a very cold January 1st - it makes for a spectacular addition to the winter garden. As the male flowers mature, they show signs of pale yellow pollen, which adds to their beauty.

Where to Grow Garrya

The Silk Tassel Bush is really best against a wall or fence, though it will also grow as a free standing large shrub in a border - or even a lawn centerpiece, for it can be base planted with other interesting plants for the summer months. If it is to be planted in an 'open' situation, then it would requite a sheltered spot.

Garrya eliptica is generally hardy, though can suffer setback in severe winters. Together with this it is prone to wind scorch of the evergreen foliage, though this seems not to affect the health of the shrub overall - just unsightly.

Seaside planting is not a problem, for it will withstand salt-laden winds, and as with several other shrubs and trees, seem to cope better with coastal winds that inland winds.

Garrya will grow in a wide range of normal garden soils, but will not tolerate prolonged waterlogging in the winter months. It will grow on clay or sandy soils, and anything in between. The main requirement being free draining.

Problems with Garrya elliptica

Disfiguration of the foliage from severe wind scr\orch can be unsightly if grown in exposed situations, but rarely a problem when grown against a wall.

The leaf scorch should not be confused with the fungal disease 'leaf spot' which frequently occurs. Preventative treatment with a fungal spray is best idea.

After the catkins, you will have a grey-green evergreen for the rest of the year!

Propagation of Garrya Elliptica

Seed - if it can be obtained, should be sown in autumn - in a cool place and allowed to overwinter, with some germination happening in the following spring. It required a cold few months to break the seed dormancy, and aid germination, so do not keep in heated propagator.

Semi-ride or ripe cuttings have always worked well for me with Garrya elliptica - simply put three or four in pot of rooting compost, and leave in cold-frame for the winter months. If there has been no rooting by mid spring, and the cutting still seems healthy, then they can be placed in a position where they can receive gentle bottom heat.


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