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Prunus lusitanica A mixture of red and deep green is, for traditionalists like me, the most uplifting combination in midwinter, just when one's gardening spirits are in danger of ebbing away like the leaves on the trees.
The hardy Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica) is the perfect pick me up, combining a winter warming mixture of evergreen leaves and rhubarb red stems. I first noticed the charm of this often disregarded evergreen many years ago when visiting Arrow Cottage in Herefordshire, where elegant clipped standards depict the Twelve Disciples. Portuguese laurel is also used to great effect at English Heritage's Brodsworth Hall in Yorkshire. This Italianate garden, created in the Victorian heyday of the 1860s, relies on a variety of clipped evergreens. The spheres, ovals and blocks are roughly cut with shears three times a year in February, July and October. This promotes new growth and these softly topiarised shapes contrast well with the more sharply clipped, smaller leaved box and holly trees. This thrice yearly haircut would be far too savage for most plants, but Portuguese laurel is very adaptable. Some of Brodsworth's specimens were planted more than 150 years ago and, prior to the garden restoration, had become neglected. They were taken back to stumps to rejuvenate them and quickly recovered to form handsome specimens once more. This member of the cherry family is very hardy despite being a native of Portugal and Spain. It was introduced into Britain from Madeira via Portugal in 1648 during the reign of Charles I. The original specimen grew at Oxford Botanic Garden pandora charms countries until pandora jewelry buy online it was cut down in 1826. The less hardy cherry laurel (P. laurocerasus) had already arrived from Constantinople in 1576 and for many years both were treated as tender plants and often grown in orangeries. Both have since proved to be hardy, although P. lusitanica is the hardier of the two. The Portuguese laurel is also a better looking plant, with smaller, neatly serrated, softer green leaves that resemble bay (Laurus nobilis). So it makes a very good alternative for gardeners in cold areas who find bay impossible to grow outdoors. The deep pink stems, which look so handsome in winter light, are encouraged by regular clipping. However, left to its own devices, the Portuguese laurel will reach 60ft and produce hawthorn scented white flowers in June. The numerous narrow flower spikes rise pandora charms for bracelets up like elegant candles and they are often cut for vases. Pointed red berries follow and turn purple with age. These are highly favoured by birds and sometimes this evergreen was planted in woodland where game birds fed because it was thought to impart a bracelets for women pandora finer flavour to the meat. The Victorians, who loved the privacy of hedges, embraced both Portuguese and cherry laurel as avidly as lace curtains. Both have the AGM. But there are also two distinct forms of Portuguese laurel worth growing: P. lusitanica subsp. azorica has larger, thicker, brighter leaves and is more shrub than tree. 'Myrtifolia' (1892) has darker leaves, forms a smaller, conical tree and is thought by some to be better for finely honed topiary. How to grow The Portuguese laurel is slower growing than cherry laurel and can be grown on chalk soil, unlike cherry laurel. This adaptable evergreen can be grown in shade or sun, but prefers light shade. However, if you want it as a winter feature, plant it in a more open position in retentive soil that doesn't get too wet in winter. If topiarising, clip three times a year (February, June and October) to keep the shape crisp. Otherwise leave to mature. Bear in mind that an unclipped specimen needs more space to shine. This laurel can also be used as a hedge. Plant 18in 24in apart and clip every June. Planted small it can tolerate dry shade. Or plant a series of individuals to form a geometrically arranged group, or an avenue.
Or plant a pair for winter structure. for picking up the colour of the red stems could include hybrid plum red hellebores (Helleborus x hybridus). Smaller, shiny leaved evergreens like Sarcococca confusa, Skimmia x confusa 'Kew Green' and Helix hedera 'Ivalace' could also be planted nearby.
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