How to grow Garrya elliptica common name Silk Tassel Bush
Garrya is an easy to grow, evergreen shrub which produces in winter from December onwards through January & February, long attractive tassels which gives rise to its common name 'Silk Tassel Bush'. It originates from California and is classified as ** hardy but I have seen it growing in some fairly cold areas.
Garrya will prefer to grow in a sheltered spot, and the male plants have the best catkins, on G. elliptica the tassels are up to 15 cms long and often in profusion on the shrub making it very attractive for winter interest. The leaves are shiny and dark green.
Whilst Garrya need a sheltered spot they are not fussy, and will grow in most soil types, including moist soil and in semi shade. Garrya will grow to around 2 - 3m, (6.5' to 10') larger in a more sheltered spot.
Garryas will also tolerate some salt and so are suitable for a coastal garden.
Garrya needs no maintenance to speak of but they can get large up to 4 metres and an equal spread when mature, so Garrya can be regarded as a large garden shrub, almost a small tree. Males have the most ornamental tassels, and 'James Roof' has the RHS merit award which is always a good sign to look for when selecting a garden shrub or plant. The catkin like tassels on James Roof can be up to 20cms (8") making an impressive winter show. If the plant is in an exposed spot it can damage the leaves as you will see in the image left where some of the leaves have been browned by a severe winter; although the shrub. It can be difficult to move a Garrya as Garrya resent transplanting.
How to Prune a Garrya elliptica
Garrya does not require pruning and it is not recommended to prune it hard. This means it is difficult to contain the size of the shrub by pruning and it best grown where there is enough space to accommodate it as a very large shrub. If a Garrya needs to be pruned, it is pruning group 8 which refers to evergreen shrubs which flower between winter and early spring on the previous year's growth. This means the flowers, in the case of a Garrya it's tassels, come in late winter and have been formed over the previous months which makes it important to prune it after the tassels have finished otherwise you will risk cutting the wood on which the tassels are forming and miss a years flowers. Garrya can be tidied up to remove any dead branches and to create symmetry.
As the images below show, Garrya is an eye catching shrub and which looks great in the winter. It combines well with other winter shrubs such as Cotoneaster horizontalis image far left and with Cornus both with red stems (centre) C, alba 'Sibirica'and yellow stems (right), C. sericea Flaviramea