We have had a Garrya elliptica in our garden for many years. Last year the catkins were show-stopping. However, this year we have none. We cut it back at the end of February and cannot understand its behaviour. Have you any explanation?

Chris Blake, via email

Garrya produces its dangly grey catkins on wood from the previous year, so if yours was cut back just once last February (and provided that nobody had a “tidy-up” later, removing potential flowering shoots), it should have flowered this year.

I have heard of garryas grown in exposed places having their soon-to-be-flowering shoots nipped by extreme frosty wind in midwinter – but you would have noticed the damage had this been the case.

All I can suggest is that you cut back your shrub minimally this year, and throw a fistful of blood, fish and bone, as well as mulch around its base. In high summer, when it is about to start to make next year’s flower buds, give an additional feed with sulphate of potash and make sure that it does not lack water. And keep your greenest fingers crossed.

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Garrya elliptica – Silk Tassel Bush – how to grow 

Garrya eliptica is generally hardy, though can suffer setback in severe winters. Together with this it is prone to wind scorch of the evergreen foliage, though this seems not to affect the health of the shrub overall – just unsightly.

Seaside planting is not a problem, for it will withstand salt-laden winds, and as with several other shrubs and trees, seem to cope better with coastal winds that inland winds.

Garrya will grow in a wide range of normal garden soils, but will not tolerate prolonged waterlogging in the winter months. It will grow on clay or sandy soils, and anything in between. The main requirement being free draining.

Problems with Garrya elliptica

Disfiguration of the foliage from severe wind scr\orch can be unsightly if grown in exposed situations, but rarely a problem when grown against a wall.

The leaf scorch should not be confused with the fungal disease ‘leaf spot’ which frequently occurs. Preventative treatment with a fungal spray is best idea.

After the catkins, you will have a grey-green evergreen for the rest of the year!

Propagation of Garrya Elliptica

Seed – if it can be obtained, should be sown in autumn – in a cool place and allowed to overwinter, with some germination happening in the following spring. It required a cold few months to break the seed dormancy, and aid germination, so do not keep in heated propagator.

Semi-ride or ripe cuttings have always worked well for me with Garrya elliptica – simply put three or four in pot of rooting compost, and leave in cold-frame for the winter months. If there has been no rooting by mid spring, and the cutting still seems healthy, then they can be placed in a position where they can receive gentle bottom heat.

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  • Plant of the Day – Garrya
  • Best Winter Flowering Shrubs

The evergreen shrub Garrya Elliptica is commonly known as the The Silk Tassel Bush. It brings much needed Winter interest to a garden, largely because of the silver grey catkins which appear from around December through to early Spring here in Britain

Garrya Elliptica originates from North America, principally from coastal California. It has a compact habit and can be planted as a single free standing specimen, or together as a hedge, and can be a very effective espalier or fan trained against a wall. .
The Silk Tassel bush is a dioecious shrub. That is to say there are both male and female plants. The difference is reasonably easy to determine and its all about the tassels. Male Garrya’s have greener grey tassels with some cultivars growing as long as 12 inches (30cm). The females tassels tend to be shorter at around 3.5 inches (9cm) with a more silvery grey look.
This particular evergreen doesn’t require a great deal of pruning especially if your specimen is free standing. However should you wish to reduce its size pruning is best done in Spring. The silk tassel catkins that have provided a wonderful show over Winter will have begun fading and the shrub will be shedding any yellow or brown leaves in preparation for new growth so now is the time to shape it. Spring is also the time to cut Garrya hedges.
Garrya Elliptica prefers soil that is well drained and loamy. As with all shrubs soak the root ball and dig a hole twice the size of the pot backfilling with plenty of compost and a handful of fish blood and bone. This will give your Silk tassel bush the best start. Ideally you should site it in a sheltered position away from frosty winds as the leaves are susceptible to scorch.

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Garrya elliptica — Silktassel

Garrya elliptica, commonly called silktassel or coast tassel bush, is prized for its catkins—long, pendant flowers—that cascade from branch tips among dense, green leaves in the dead of winter when little else is in bloom. This substantial, long-lived, shrub is even attractive when not flowering. Garrya is an excellent choice in large gardens with ample space for a screen or a large informal hedge. It is generally deer resistant. In habitat gardens, the purple fruits of the female plants are attractive to birds.
This evergreen shrub is native to the Coast Ranges from southern Oregon to Santa Barbara County. In the northernmost part of this range, Garrya elliptica grows in rather barren soil on the seaward side of redwoods. In Sonoma County, it grows best from Santa Rosa west to the ocean where it can tolerate full sun as well as fog, wind and rain, and is not threatened by large changes in temperature. Farther inland, it needs partial shade and moderate irrigation but may suffer if the temperature does exceed 100 degrees F. In a protected spot, garrya is cold-hardy to 12 degrees F.
Garrya elliptica has a moderate rate of growth to 10-20 ft. high and wide. Thick, elliptical or oval, leathery leaves are dark green on top with grey, woolly hair on the bottom, 1½-3 in. long and 1½ in. wide. Margins are wavy and may tend to curl.
The shrub is grown mainly for its striking female and male catkins, which appear on separate plants. Flowers are borne in long, dangling, creamy to greenish yellow catkins from December through February. Male catkins are longer and thus more dramatic, 3-8 in. in length; female catkins are shorter, reaching only 2-3½ inches long. Both sexes must be present for the female plant to bear its grape-like clusters of round berries, which are densely hairy and become velvety smooth with age. The two most popular cultivars are both male, ‘James Roof’ and ‘Evie.’ ‘Evie’ has a denser look than ‘James Roof.’

Garrya elliptica, like many California natives, is drought tolerant and must have good drainage, especially when planted in heavy clay soil. It isn’t uncommon for plants to suffer fatal damage in winters with excessively heavy rains. Planting on mounds above grade and watering thoroughly every week or two until established is recommended when monthly watering is sufficient.

Any necessary pruning should be done immediately after flowering; however, garrya does not respond favorably to remedial pruning. Unwanted branching may occur, creating larger size and denser growth.

September 2019

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 catkins, or tassels which gives rise to its common name ‘Silk Tassel Bush’. Not all varieties of Garry are frost hardy, G. elliptica which originates from California and is classified as ** hardy which is around -10 degrees, but I have seen many Garryas growing successfully in some fairly cold areas if planted in a sheltered area. It will survive in colder areas if position carefully, Garrya will prefer to grow in a sheltered spot away from cold winds. Both male and female plants have catkins although the male plants have the best catkins. On G. elliptica the tassels are up to 15 cms long, ‘Evie’ is male with long catkins up to 30cms and the most commonly sold and seen in the UK is ‘James Roof’ with dark green leaves and a profusion of catkins up to 35cms long ( if growing conditions are ideal,) making it an attractive for winter interest. There is a variety G. x issaquahensis ‘Pat Ballard’ which has slightly mauve tinged catkins and G. x issaquahensis ‘Glasnevin Wine’ with reddish catkins, although these are less commonly grown.

Whilst Garrya need a sheltered spot they are not fussy, and will grow in most soil types, including moist soil and in semi shade. If Garrya are exposed to too much wind they can suffer from wind scorch (image left) which will cause the leaves to be browned. Garrya will grow to around 2 – 3m, (6.5′ to 10′) larger in a more sheltered spot. Garrya elliptica is ideal to grow against a wall to provide shelter and to display the catkins. There are no particular planing requirements for Garrya in that it will tolerate all soil types.

Garrya are medium rate of growth and it an take up to 20 years to reach full size and maturity which is around 4 meters.

Garryas will also tolerate some salt and so are suitable for a coastal garden.

If Garrya is not suitable for your garden for more ideas check out Fast Growing Evergreen shrubs, Spring and Summer flowering shrubs and other shrubs with Autumn and Winter interest.

About Wavyleaf Silktassel (Garrya elliptica) 28 Nurseries Carry This Plant

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Garrya elliptica (Coast silk-tassel) is a common evergreen shrub native to the coastal ranges of California and southern Oregon, south to Los Angeles County. It reaches a height of two to five meters. It is one of a small biological family of approximately twenty known species in the family Garryaceae, most of which are Garrya. Female and male sexual organs of all the Garrya are found on separate plants. This is an example of a native plant that is sufficiently attractive and neat of growing habit to be appealing as a landscape species. It is stocked at many commercial plant nurseries, and is clearly a widely used Garrya for landscape purposes. This plant is sometimes known as Silk Tassel Bush or Wavyleaf Silktassel. All Garrya are associated with warm temperate regions of North America. Coast silk-tassel (sometimes called Wavyleaf silk-tassel) has a multi-furcate branching structure yielding an almost spherical form. The height can attain five meters, but more likely averages three meters in the wild. Coast silk-tassel, as all the genus Garrya, have opposite leaves that have a tough leathery feel, glossy green on top, but paler and duller on the underside. The dioecious flowers are concentrated in flower clusters which cascade downward as aments of approximately four to six centimeters in length. While the Coast silk-tassel manifests separate male and female plants, the pendant male catkins are much more showy and are grey-green and up to 30 centimeters long; the female ones are shorter and silver-grey. Although the flowers bloom in January and February, dried leaves remain on the tree well into summer as light gray decorations. The plant has smooth dark bark, dark-greenish when young, but with age the bark roughens. New twigs are green and moderately stout. ‘James Roof’ is one popular horticultural variety known for its especially long tassels. Plant Description Plant Type Shrub

Size 6 – 16.4 ft tall
6 – 10 ft wide
Form Rounded
Growth Rate Fast, Moderate
Dormancy Evergreen
Flower Color White, Cream, Green
Flowering Season Winter
Landscaping Information Sun Part Shade, Full Sun
Moisture Very Low
Summer Irrigation Max 3x / month once established
Ease of Care moderately easy
Cold Tolerance Tolerates cold to 0 – 10° F
Soil Drainage Fast, Medium, Slow
Soil Description Tolerates clay soil. Tolerates Serpentine Soil. Soil PH: 6.0 – 8.0
Common uses Hedges, Deer Resistant
Companion Plants Manzanita (Arctostaphylos species), Ceanothus species, Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), Scrub Oak (Quercus berberidifolia), Coffee Berry (Frangula species), Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea), Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii), and Bluff Lettuce (Dudleya farinosa)
Propagation Seeds or cuttings. For propagating by seed: 3 mos. stratification.
Sunset Zones 4, 5*, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18, 19, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24
Natural Setting Site Type Seacliffs, dunes, foothills below 2,000 ft. usually close to the coast where it occurs as part of northern chaparral or coastal scrub, or in the understory of evergreen forest. Also on Santa Cruz Island.
Climate Annual Precipitation: 11.8″ – 91.0″, Summer Precipitation: 0.15″ – 2.79″, Coldest Month: 38.4″ – 53.9″, Hottest Month: 55.7″ – 78.5″, Humidity: 0.01″ – 24.98″, Elevation: -97″ – 5020″
Alternative Names Common Names: Coast Silktassel, Silk Tassel Bush
Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the “About” section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from “Seed Propagation of Native California Plants” by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual “normals” at an 800 meter spatial resolution.
Links: Jepson eFlora Taxon Page CalPhotos Wikipedia Calflora

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