Elaeagnus Has a Hidden Beauty

Fragrant fall flowers of Elaeagnus

Fragrant fall flowers of Elaeagnus

Elaeagnus unkept is a mass of long tangled shoots

Elaeagnus unkept is a mass of long tangled shoots.

The most beautiful use of Elaeagnus I have ever seen is in a flower arrangement. The long shoots that the plant produces are great to establish a line in a big flower arrangement. But in fall, the rampant unchecked growth and long shoots of the ones all over town produce a heavenly scent as it comes into bloom. It is starting to bloom now, and while they are hard to see, they are wonderful to enjoy because of their fragrance. This shrub is so misunderstood. If you want a 15 foot tall hedge that can be 20 feet wide, this is the plant for you. Unfortunately, it is very inexpensive in small sizes, so it is a popular builder’s landscape plant. Once it starts¬†growing, if you do not want it to grow large, constant pruning is a must. This is one big evergreen shrub. There is a selection, ‘Fruitlandi,’ that has nice silvery foliage compared to the tan foliage of the species. Once the flowers finish, eventually there will be some silver red fruits that are not dense enough on the plant to be distinctive. This is a tough plant and makes dense impenetrable hedges. Now, if you want to see it in a controlled situation, there are several plants on the right side of the Tori gate at the Japanese Garden at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. I have pruned these plants four times this year to keep the long shoots they produce in check.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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