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!