Tuesday, 5 February 2013

My poor Garrya elliptica

Garrya elliptica  ‘James Roof’ - the silk tassel plant


Whilst we sunned ourselves in Madeira, it was minus ten centigrade for four nights at home and not much more during the day! We came home to a somewhat scorched plant. The books say garrya is ‘hardy down to minus ten’ but I think it will normally stand more cold than that. As far as I remember, in the much colder double winter of 2010, mine did not turn a hair. The significant thing this year, was that the cold was preceded by a warm spell. This is not a happy combination.

Poor thing

I recall over the years, when I used to have clients in various parts of Yorkshire, this brown scorch happened on only two occasions in ten years; once in November and once in March. In both years it was the same combination of weather, a sharp change of warm weather to cold. I found it interesting that the same thing had happened in every garden I worked.

Happier days

What shall I do now? Nothing for several weeks. It is best for any die-back to take its course and then prune it away. The level of damage is actually quite small. By May there will be no evidence of my present problem.
Starting to cover oil tank
Garrya elliptica is one of those shrubs that is best grown and trained on a wall. Wall shrubs  need pruning to stay on a wall. Some gardeners seem to think wall shrubs will grow as elegant wall hugging plants without help! Dream on. Although garrya will grow on a wall of any aspect, they are one of those special plants that thrive on a north wall. My own plant faces north-east and I was retraining it to cover an oil tank that we had to replace last year! 
Interestingly, the lovely catkins are male (well, he is called James!). As long as you do not prune back after early summer, they will flower well from November to March each year. 

A setback to covering my tank!

The most exposed garrya shoot sustained the worse damage. Hydrangea petiolaris is covering from the other side. It seems the plants themselves will decide how to camouflage the tank!

up date on my Garrya which now in May is starting to sprout on this post on sudden shrub death



21 comments:

  1. We haven't had such low temperatures but I'll check our garrya for scorch when it's not raining or sleeting.

    I took a cutting ages ago from our trellis trained garrya. I then trained it as a sort of mini tree and have it at the back of a border. The parent plant was dug up to make way for a summerhouse.

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    1. I think you would have noticed it by now Sue. My friend Peter in the village also grows it as a free standing plant. When I was down there yesterday, his was scorched too

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  2. What is the best way to train a wall shrub - do you just cut off any outward facing shoots, or do you have to wire them to the wall? I like the look of this shrub and have a smallish north facing wall which could do with some cover. My husband isn't too keen on drilling holes into the new wall!

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    1. It depends on the plant.....
      But yes its often a combination of cutting out shoots that are going in the wrong direction- at any time of the year. It's also for some shrubs tieing back promising shoots when they are still young and whippy. There might be a need to wire the wall or use trellis. Some shrubs such as Cotoneaster horizontalis will stay in place flat to the wall without support and garrya itself needs little support. Hydrangea petiolaris is self clinging to smooth surfaces including most bricks and also is a good north wall plant.
      Many people go wrong with wall shrubs by doing nothing for some years and then trying to tie back heavy branches. They are doomed!

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    2. Just a further thought Jane. Thank you for asking a question. I am very happy to answer questions - provided they are relevant to the post. I wish more would come in!

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  3. How I love this plant. It has been extremely cold here for a long time and I am seeing scorch on plants which have not suffered before. Along with the cold and the penetrating frosts, we've had really harsh winds. I, too, am leaving the scorched leaves on the plants and hoping for a full recovery. Thank goodness your Hydrangea is performing!

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  4. Down here in the South we have not had to contend with such cold conditions, though it has definitely been a few degrees below zero. I think your advice about what to do now is spot on. Nature will sort it out! If we try to intervene we often make matters worse. The scorched foliage may well protect other undamaged foliage, which would be exposed if we cut off the damaged bits.

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  5. That's a beautiful specimen you have there Roger - this is one of those plants that I have plant envy for those who grow it!
    I have nowhere suitable to show it off a it's best and even then I'm sure it wouldn't do well up here.

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  6. Norfolk, York, Mark's balmy south and Scotland - what a variety of climates TGS, Mark and Angie!

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  7. That’s a nice Garrya you have, nice to see it the way it is supposed to be. I have mine in a container right by my door, it is 9 years old and about 2’ tall. I never thought it would survive this long as it certainly isn’t meant to grow like this, but the Garrya is perfectly healthy, producing lovely catkins every year. I have never fertilised it, and only changed the pot once, to a slightly bigger one. It has had a slight prune a couple of times. Frost has never been a problem for it here in London, and it seem to take drying out in the summer without much fuzz too. I love it, great plant!

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  8. My poor Garrya in chilly Yorkshire has done exactly the same ! It's in a pot on an east facing wall and was doing really well until this 'spring'. Now all the shoots have turned brown and died back. I have just pruned them off thinking it was diseased but having read the above I'm wondering whether this was the wrong thing to do. I'll have to wait and see I suppose. Interestingly I have a similar problem with a Photinia where the red coloured leaves and growing shoots have all withered - would this also be due to the cold spring conditions ? I've pruned that one back as well !

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    1. My own plant now looks worse than my pictures but beneath the dead surface leaves it is really quite green and am confident it will recover and make strong new growth. I hope yours will too but yes, I'm afraid it would have been much better if you had left it. The old leaves would have sheltered it from these biting cold winds we have had and there is also a possibility you might have cut too hard back. Leave it at least another month and look for new growth. I have not known many Garryas completely killed and hold out a degree of optimism. Make another comment next month and let me know! You have not been the only one with this problem. This post has had a remarkable number of 'hits' and it must be all those folk who googled something like 'sick Garrya elliptica' I bet it is the cold wind that has damaged your Photinia and again its wait and hope! Best of luck Fiona!

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    2. I have just re-read my post and after these weeks of cold biting winds I now think I was over optimistic to say my plant would look good in May!
      But hopefully late June!

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  9. I have a ten year old free standing garrya which looks almost dead - most of it brown and scorched. Delighted to read it may come back as it would leave an emormous hole in my border as it s over 2m high now standing proud over a sunken patio. I will leave well alone and watch but it has an awful long way to go.

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  10. My friend Peter Williams- whose open garden features on my current post - just cut his back and he tells me he is confident it will come. Best of look with yours anon!

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  11. I am so pleased I found this site, my Garrya has more scortching on the leaves than yours and the catkins look very sad. Do I cut them off and is it too soon to prune the dead back to fresh sprouts? In anticipation of a reply, many thanks.

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    1. If you have fresh sprouts anon all is going to be well. I have put a link on the end of this post to see my own update - my plant is also sprouting strongly.
      Cut out the dead catkins and cut out any dead none sprouting shoots. Its also a good opportunity for a bit of pruning to shape up the bush.
      I would not bother to remove dead leaves, they will fall off in due course. ( If the brown leaves bother you rub your hand through them to encourage them to fall)

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  12. Hi I found this site when i Googled my 'sick Garrya' Im not sure what scorch is but my Garrya has developed yellowing leaves with brown patches that fall quickly. The base of the plant is covered in 'dead' leaves that ive been scooping up and geting rid of as I think its some kind of infection. There are newer green leaves appearing so i dont think its dying but I want to know how to deal with this problem and what might be causing it. My Garrya is about 7' high trained against a fence.
    Berni

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    1. Hello anon
      'Scorch' is one of those vague horticultural words. It implies brown or dead leaves usually caused by wind and/or cold.
      I don't think your garrya will have any infection. There may be a problem with some factor that I am not aware but it is more likely to be something physical or nutritional rather than a pest or disease.
      I am a little concerned if your yellow leaves are on new growth that all might not be well. If you prune out dead shoots and continue to remove dead leaves for cosmetic reasons perhaps that is all that is needed.
      My own garrya is in superb condition now and some new growth has been shortened back to the wall. If I wait much longer pruning back will remove next years flower buds.

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  13. Hi Roger. Am pretty much a beginner... so am hoping you can please offer some advice on what seems to be a hugely popular topic (although slightly off the original topic here)
    So i have 2 wall trained Garrya which are about 150cm high. I had an abundance of catkins during the last winter and overall they are pretty healthy looking plants.
    So my questions... i've neglected continuing to train the plants and now the growth is horizontal from the top of the existing trellis. Am i able to be fairly tough with the plant and pull the horizontal growth back onto an extended trellis so it continues up the wall or am i too late (i note about you say not to prune post early summer) so i've not bothered going down that route to bring them inline.
    i've also noticed early stage catkins growing on only one branch this week and no where else... is this anything to worry about?
    FINAL Q i promise - is it ever worth planting say buxus hedges to protect the base on the plant which is pretty exposed in my garden?

    Many thanks - Jon

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    1. Thanks for the questions Jon. Had to think to visualise 150 cm. Five foot I think, doing well but could easily double! Not if you prune it.
      I am relaxed about pruning out of season. The only area of difficulty is if you are cutting most of the current years young shoots back, you are cutting off potential catkins. You can lob off great branches to reshape the shrub almost any time and the parts of the plant you choose to retain will still give you loads of flowers.
      I am never too keen on pulling back great branches to tie in, it never looks good. By all means tie in young pliable branches and the best way is to train and tie in new shoots as they grow
      Don't like your idea of hedge at the base. It should look good right down to the ground. The roots are not in any danger of cold. It is just that a young plant if very seriously scorched might die because it has lost its top.
      I hope my post made it clear that for most of us in a semi decent UK climate that the problems of the scorching is a fairly infrequent event
      As to your early catkins it is just confused! Seriously it might be due to rain and heat following a cold spring.

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