Monday 23 October 2017

Joy of a lasting bloomer

Soft pink blooms of laurustinus last from winter all the way into spring
Soft pink blooms of laurustinus last from winter all the way into spring

Gerry Daly

Flowering all winter and still going well, laurustinus is an exceptionally good shrub. It has good heads of small tubular flowers, evergreen foliage and a neat growth habit. It comes from the Mediterranean region where it occupies a niche much as holly does here - growing in rocky scrub and in open oak forest. Plants that can cope with woodland conditions generally make good garden plants.

Being evergreen, it can grow in deciduous woodland during the autumn and early spring when the big trees are dormant. It takes the opportunity then to flower and sets its bluish-black berries in spring. Although it is Mediterranean in origin, it is quite hardy, growing in mountain woods and capable of surviving all but the hardest frost.

Laurustinus has been used widely in parks and gardens for its dark green foliage and many old town gardens have ancient specimens. The plant forms a large bush or small tree with a dense rounded head of foliage, dotted about with flower clusters, while often flushed pink or red.

Strangely, and unlike related viburnum species, the flowers mostly have no scent although there may be some plants that have a touch of honey fragrance on a warm day. This is strange because most winter-flowering plants have rich fragrance as a way of attracting pollinating bees and other insects, which are scarce at this time of year.

Laurustinus is usually grown as a shrub, even if it can get a bit too big for some gardens, reaching three metres tall and wide, and often more.

It can be cut back after flowering to keep it smaller, either cutting back hard into old wood, or by thinning some shoots each year in late spring.

Viburnum takes clipping well and can be used for hedges and clipped into topiary shapes.

It is also possible to grow laurustinus as a small free-standing tree on a single or multiple stems, and it looks very well trained like this.

When a bush has grown tall, it is easy to carefully cut out the lower branches, leaving only the main stems and tidying the side-growths off to a suitable height.

'Eve Price' is a more compact version and is the variety most often sold in garden centres. 'Gwenllian' is neat in growth too, with a profusion of flowers, relatively large-sized. Both of these versions have relatively small leaves.

Will my fruit bushes survive a move?

Q:  I have moved some fruit bushes from my late father's garden and transplanted to my own the following day. I think they were gooseberry and raspberry and blackcurrant from what I can remember. I cut them back to about 4 feet. Do you think they will survive as I am unsure how much of the root I got. I also would like to ask you how do I kill grass around the bushes? E O'Flynn, Co Cork

A: All of those fruits move easily, even with a relatively small rootball. Reducing their height helps them to recover. Just ensure they are not rocked by wind, and give each a bucket of water when there is a dry spell of a week or more, during spring and early summer, or until there are vigorous new shoots and leaves.

Chop the grass away with a spade, or cover it with black polythene or old carpet to deprive the weeds of light.

  • Send your questions to gerrydaly@independent.ie. Questions can only be answered on this page.

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