THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Mar27

Phillyrea – A Shrub We Should Grow More Of!

Phillyrea is a shrub we came across a fair few years ago, in our search for clippable topiary shrubs.

It seems to have been out of favour a long time – this piece about the plant by Mary Keen is from 2004, encouraging gardeners to try it out. But those 13 years pale in comparison to the last time it was popular – in the 17th and 18th centuries!

This Blog About Phillyrea Teaches You…

  1. Why it might be unpopular now
  2. Shows photos of it as beautiful topiary, as well as a mature plant
  3. Suggests the tool you need to prune it
  4. Takes advice from Architectural Plants on how to grow it
  5. Considers its role as a valuable plant for bees

Why Is Phillyrea Unpopular Now?

This is a tough one to answer, especially when you see how lovely the plant is…

phillyrea

It is a member of the olive family

phillyrea topiary

Looks amazing clipped into topiary!

Cloud Pruning!

The fact it isn’t used more may have something to do with cost and availability. Most places who say they stock it will not have any available, while prices seem to vary greatly – a pre-clipped, cloud-pruned shrub will cost a lot more as you are paying for the topiarists time making it into that shape, while a normal 2 litre pot will be in the £8-10 range.

We heard from a nurseryman it is incredibly difficult to propagate, which is backed up by the Mary Keen piece on this lovely shrub.

We do not agree with her on one thing she says though…

“It seems a pity to clip the larger leafed form (latifolia) – if you must, tackle it with secateurs as you would laurel, so that the leaves are never sliced in half; this makes evergreens look dreadful. P. angustifolia can be clipped in the same way as box or holm oak.”

Nope! Shears will do just fine on this tree! Especially good shears….

phillyrea-latifolia- mature

Like a large head of broccoli.

How To Grow Phillyrea

Here is what Architectural Plants (where you are most likely to get a pre-cloud pruned plant) have to say about it:

“Tough as old boots. It’ll grow in sun or shade and on any soil but to get the best out of these trees they need space and light. You could say, the more exposed, the better.

It clips beautifully.

It’s only peccadillo is a terrible weakness for white fly. They’re inconvenient but there’s little you can do so ignore them.

We often sell these when restoring Tudor, Elizabethan or Mediaeval gardens. There’s masses of evidence to show that Phillyrea was used extensively hundreds of years ago. The diarist John Evelyn writes of them frequently – as if they were then as common as box, yew and holly.

What happened? They used to be so widespread and now they’re rare.

Garden historians are perplexed and so are we.”

Fantastic piece from a lovely nursery.

Phillyrea – Good For Bees?

Apparently, yes.

John Worlidge (who smartly advocated we make cider, not wine here in the UK, because that suited our climate better) wrote in 1676:

“above any tree, the bees most affect the phillyrea; one sort of them beareth in those months (spring) an abundance of greenish blossoms, which yield great plenty of of gummy rosinny sweat, which the bees daily transport to their hives…. nothing can be more acceptable to your bees than a hedge of this tree about your apiary.”

If you can get Phillyrea cheap enough as a hedging plant, would this be worth a go?

We think so!

Finishing Up On Phillyrea…

This really is a useful plant – easy to grow, easy to keep in shape if you have a small garden, allows you to have fun with pruning tools when you give it the topiary treatment, reflects light from its leaves to brighten up the garden and can be a boon for bees.

We have planted it for one client, but will be making sure Phillyrea is down on the list of any plant schedule in the future!

Apr11

Testimonials From Garden Talks This Week

I have visited two new clubs this week to present a garden talk. They were in different parts of the country and so a lot of driving, but worth every hour sat on the motorway in traffic! The talks went well and I have had some lovely feedback… “Thank you so much for providing a presentation which was an almost impossible mix of enthusiasm, joy, entertainment, education and inspiration. They say that laughter is the best medicine and there was certainly plenty of that, and everyone left with a smile on their face, but just as important is that it …

READ MORE

Mar28

Secateurs Marie Kondo Would Approve Of….

secateurs

Secateurs & Marie Kondo I was interviewed recently for an article in the Telegraph about the best secateurs for the garden. I let my mouth run away with me (as normal) and said that the Okatsune pruners with the red and white handles, that I use everyday in the garden, are the kind you don’t throw away when you Marie Kondo your possessions. I mean that, because I do believe in buy once buy well. But when it gets reported in the paper, I don’t half sound like a wally…! “Lerigo devoutly describes his chosen make of Japanese secateurs, Okatsune, …

READ MORE

Mar27

The Best Secateurs For Your Garden – The Daily Telegraph

Modern Mint and myself have been helping the Daily Telegraph discover the best secateurs on the market. And lo and behold, our Okatsune secateurs came out top! At last, recognition for a great value pair of secateurs that I use everyday! You can see what they thought of the other items on the post here – Daily Telegraph Best Secateurs. Or buy yourself a pair from Modern Mint.