Disaster Strikes!

Ailing Garrya

South side

Just when you think you’ve got everything in the garden under control, Mother Nature slaps you in the face to remind you she is in charge! One of the key shrubs in the middle garden and an essential part of the structure planting is Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’. It was already established when we moved here so I guess it might be forty years old. Unusually, it is planted as a free-standing specimen and not against a north wall as was the tradition. In my re-design, I have worked around it to create a sweeping bed under-planted with Japanese Anemones. It also provides a permanent backdrop to the ornamental pond and casts late afternoon shade which the fish enjoy in summer. This is known to be a tough shrub capable of surviving sub zero temperatures for sustained periods despite it’s origins in the temperate regions of the western USA and central America. Indeed, it chooses to flower in the depths of winter which is a big part of its appeal, the long pinky green catkins giving it the common name of Silk-tassel bush. However, over the last month, the southern and west facing sides have turned an alarming dead brown colour.

North side

North side

The north and east aspects are fine and healthy new growth is already appearing.So what’s different all of a sudden? Could it be last four winters have gradually taken their toll and weakened the ageing plant beyond its pain threshold? But if so, why only on the south and west sides? Perhaps it was the harsh pruning last year to re-shape and lift the canopy to promote the under-storey? Given the sustained cold weather for three months followed by a sudden period of warm sunshine I am going to assume it is frost damage and nothing more serious at this stage. There is new growth appearing from behind the crispy brown exterior so I think it’s out with the ladder and secateurs and keeping fingers crossed time!

5 thoughts on “Disaster Strikes!

  1. How very strange. You would think that if it was your pruning the whole shrub would be affected but it may be that the affected side got wind damaged. The wind can be very drying. At least there is new growth coming through. I would let the new growth get a little bigger and leave the old stuff for a week or so to protect it – but thats just me

  2. David, from your pictures the South side looks in better condition than the North. However it is probably a bit of frost and wind scorch since the North side appears more protected. It should be alright if there is new growth coming through and in gardening there are always extra jobs being thrown at us.

  3. These things are sent to try us David! Tell it to pull itself together and stop messing about, wave a spade about in its direction, I’m sure that will do the trick. Fingers crossed for you.

  4. David, did your Garrya recover? We moved into a new house last autumn (2016) and have exactly the same problem with a Garrya that is about 12ft tall! I came across your blog whilst trying to find some answers… Thanks

    • I’m afraid not! It had to be pruned so much to remove the dead and dying branches that it became an ugly, one-sided bush and looked ridiculous. We took the whole thing down to the ground. It does not re-grow from the old wood and has not tried to send up new shoots either. I think all plants have a finite life and this one had reached the end.

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