February's Plant of the month

On the Winter Walk, an unassuming bush bursts forth with tassels straight from the twenties

Garrya elliptica on the Winter Walk at RHS Garden Harlow CarrGarrya elliptica is the ugly duckling of the plant world, looking fairly dull and fading into the background for the majority of the year. But very early in the New Year it begins to transform into a thing of beauty, like a Charleston flapper girl, ready to razzle and dazzle with its twisted tassels.

In February this plant is looking particularly good. The delicate tassel-like catkins have fully opened and extended up to 30cm (12in) in length, moving in the breeze and doing their dance.

Garrya, like Ilex are either male or female, so for the most impressive show it’s best to have a male cultivar. These have longer and more attractive tassels and catch the breeze - this is how they are pollinated.

Garrya's tassels reveal their intricate structure in close upOn the Winter Walk we have a block of the cultivar G. ‘James Roof’, probably the most readily available cultivar, which has tassels up to 20cm (8in) in length. Because of the deep green foliage it is perfect used as a foil for other plants, and we have used ours to highlight some amber-stemmed Salix alba, red-stemmed Cornus and to provide shelter to the heavily scented blooms of Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’.

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