We have many evergreens at Uppark and they perform a variety of functions, they’re versatile plants that often get over looked. In the winter or summer garden, we feel they have their place.
Taxus baccata (Yew)
These wonderful conifers form the spine of much of the planting at Uppark, they respond really well to pruning. The Yew hedge below was reduced by 50% in height and the same again in width in November 2010. In Spring 2011 we planted up the border and it has continued to develop as has the hedge. Over the last week we’ve also reduced the height of the Yew hedge in the distance and cut down the Bay tree (Laurus nobilis) in front of the hedge. The view is superb, we’ve had some fleeting sunshine over the last week emerging through this ‘window’ and it’s lovely to see.
Prunus laurocerasus (Cherry Laurel) is really good for providing a mid-green foil for some more sympathetic planting or as a screen. Below, this cherry laurel on Uppark estate is used to screen an unsightly utility area.
Cherry laurel is vigorous, quick to establish and will tolerate most soil conditions. Due to its vigour, it needs quite a bit of pruning, this is best done after it’s put on the majority of its annual growth. The great thing is it’s tough as old boots and you can prune from August onwards once any nesting birds have flown their nests. We’ve still got quite a bit of pruning to do at Uppark and we’ll do this until the nesting season really kicks in in early March. We prefer to cut it by hand using secateurs, it’s labour intensive and gives a more pleasing finish than a hedge cutter. During our visit to Stourhead last autumn, we learnt how the garden team manage their ‘laurel landscape’ – they cut the areas close to the paths by hand and hedge-cut further in, an excellent compromise.
Prunus lusitanica (Portugal laurel)
This has been planted extensively at Uppark, it’s very common in many historic gardens and it’s easy to spend many happy hours pruning this laurel for shape with secateurs and renovation with a pruning saw and sometimes a chainsaw (see below). It’s remarkably resilient and even though the treatment below looks severe, it bounces back well.
Pruned frequently with secateurs, it provides an excellent backdrop for a border or a hedge. It has very attractive red leaf stalks, the leaves are darker, smaller and some feel the foliage is more subtle than the cherry laurel.
Sarcoccoca confusa (Sweet Box)
These plants have the most fabulous fragrance right now. We have a small group planted near the scented garden at Uppark and they’re producing a perfumed explosion of scent, if you’re looking for an unusual, classy fragrant Valentine’s gift for your loved one, consider buying a group of at least three of these to plant near a gate, doorway or path, under-planted with a generous drift of Galanthus sp.(Snowdrops) you’ll have a Valentine’s gift that keeps on giving year on year!
We shape our Sarcoccoca shortly after they’ve finished flowering at Uppark. We leave pruning until April or May so any new growth doesn’t get frost damaged. If they’re newly planted either leave alone or if you feel the urge to prune, tip prune them to encourage more secondary growth further down the stem so the plants fill out more.
Viburnum davidii (David Viburnum)
V. davidii is a small spreading evergreen shrub, with elliptic, deep green, leathery, three-veined leaves and flattened heads of small white flowers followed (on cross-pollinated plants) by long-lasting ‘metallic’ blue-black berries. We have groups of these shrubs planted within our island beds in the wide glade area of Uppark garden. Their leathery leaves provide great colour and contrast of texture in the border.
Laurus nobilis (Bay)
L. nobilis is a large, erect evergreen shrub with aromatic, narrowly ovate, leathery leaves, useful in cooking. Its flowers are small, pale greenish-yellow, in dense clusters with oval fruits that are glossy black when ripe. When pruning, we wait until the growing season between May -August to shape so the new growth has a chance to ‘harden’ up before winter. You’ll see in the image below, taken in the garden at Uppark, the foliage is very decorative and the leaf stalks are flushed with red too.
Danae racemosa (Alexandrian Laurel)
A beautiful foliage plant, much admired, valued and coveted by flower arrangers. We’ve planted the Alexandrian laurel in two semi-circles at the garden entrance. At the heart of this planting are many different ferns and a lovely clump of Buxus sempervirens (Box) that we’ll formally clip in the future.
Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree)
These are very similar in appearance to bay and are often mistaken for them, here they’ve been trained at the nursery into topiary forms on a clear stem, they contrast beautifully with the pillars on the Portico at Uppark. This type of training does come at a cost, but you could try it yourself, if you were feeling adventurous.