Tag Archive: tender


vitexI’m getting close to the end of the alphabet, and it doesn’t get any easier…so today’s feature tree (or large shrub), is the interestingly named Vitex agnus – castus…

Common name:  Vitex, Chaste Tree, chasteberry, Abraham’s balm, lilac chastetree, or monk’s pepper.

Native areas: Vitex agnus-castus is a native of the Mediterranean region and China. It is one of the few temperate-zone species of Vitex, which is on the whole a genus of tropical and sub-tropical flowering plants. It has a long history in the U.S.A. where it was first cultivated in 1670, and since that time it has become naturalized throughout the Southern part of the country. Many southerners use it as a replacement for lilacs, which don’t tolerate hot summers.

Historical notes: : Theophrastus mentioned Vitex as agnos (άγνος) in ‘Enquiry into Plants’. Vitex, its name in Pliny the Elder, is derived from the latin vieo, meaning to weave or to tie up, a reference to the use of Vitex agnus-castus in basketry. Its specific name repeats “chaste” in both Greek and Latin, and was considered to be sacred to the goddess Hestia/Vesta. In folk legends the tree is associated with Greek hagnos, ‘pure’, since it was strewn in bedchambers during Thesmophoria, the Greek religious festival when Athenian women left their husbands’ beds to remain ritually chaste-   “to cool the heat of lust”. At the end of the thirteenth century John Trevisa reports “the herbe agnus-castus is always grene, and the flowre therof is namly callyd Agnus Castus, for wyth smel and vse it maketh men chaste as a lombe”. More recently, this plant has been called monk’s pepper in the thought that it was used as anti-libido medicine by monks to aid their attempts to remain chaste. There are disputed accounts regarding its actual action on libido, with some claims that it is anaphrodisiac and others that it is aphrodisiac. Because of it’s  complex chemical action it can be probably be both, depending on the concentration of the extract and physiological variables. Today, Vitex agnus-castus is used to alleviate the symptoms of various gynaecological problems.

Features: Vitex blooms from late spring until early autumn with long, upright spikes of butterfly- attracting pink, lilac and white flowers (depending on variety) in late summer in cooler climates. It also has delicate-textured aromatic foliage. It develops small hard berries that ripen to a dark colour and look like peppercorns. It grows to a height of 1–5 metres.

Uses:   Whether left to grow as a large, multistemmed shrub, pruned to a standard tree or cut back annually for a more compact look, this selection is a winner. Fine, lacy leaves are glossy and green. Bright blue flower panicles begin to form in early summer and continue through the heat of the season and into autumn. This is a reasonably cold-hardy, deer-resistant woody plant. Vitex, also a traditional plant in Africa, is a little-known fruit plant that has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.

Growing conditions:   It requires full sun or partial shade along with well-drained soil. It’s best not to plant them in soil that is rich in organic matter because these soils hold too much moisture close to the roots. Chaste trees do very well in dry gardens. Under ideal conditions it is hardy to -10 degrees Fahrenheit and will grow in South West England (and possibly in suitable micro-climates and sheltered parts of gardens eleswhere) and the more temperate zones of north America. Wildlife shuns the seeds, and it’s just as well because you’ll have to remove the flower spikes before they go to seed to keep the plant flowering. You’ll need to prune annually to control the shape and size and encourage branching.

Further information:

Wikipedia

How to grow Vitex (U.S.A.)

Vitex agnus-castus- The British Gardener

Old School Gardener

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olive potsThe ‘O’ in my A-Z of garden trees is a tree that has grown in popularity in the UK in recent years, though is a little tender. I have an olive tree growing in a pot in the courtyard here at Old School Garden. It’s a couple of years old and though producing fruit, these have not yet developed into anything edible….

Common name: Olive

Native areas:  found in much of  Africa and the Mediterranean basin, the arabian peninsula, southern asia and has been naturalised in many other places.

Olive characteristics from the Kohler Medicinal Pflanzen

Olive characteristics from the Kohler Medicinal Pflanzen

Historical notes: The olive tree as we know it today had its origin approximately 6,000 -7,000 years ago in the region corresponding to ancient Persia and Mesopotamia. It later spread from these countries to nearby territories corresponding to present-day Syria and Israel.

Olive oil has long been considered sacred. The olive branch was often a symbol of abundance, glory and peace. The leafy branches of the olive tree were ritually offered to deities and powerful figures as emblems of benediction and purification, and they were used to crown the victors of friendly games and bloody wars. Today, olive oil is still used in many religious ceremonies.

 Features: Olives grow very slowly, and over many years the trunk can attain a considerable diameter. One was recorded as exceeding 10 m (33 ft) in girth. Olive is an evergreen tree or shrub. It is short and squat, and rarely exceeds 8–15 m (26–49 ft) in height, and are generally confined to much more limited dimensions by frequent pruning. The yellow or light greenish-brown wood is often finely veined with a darker tint; being very hard and close-grained, it is valued by woodworkers. 

Uses:  As a small tree with a rounded form, the olive can take on an attractively gnarled appearance as it develops and is a good choice for small gardens. It has small, but attractive leathery grey-green leaves and small,  fragrant white flowers. They can be grown as half standards pruned to the classical Tuscan shape, or as full standards as well as more natural forms. They can benefit from a severe biannual prune in April, but as the fruit develops at the tips of the previous year’s growth you’ll sacrifice one year’s crop. These look especially good in teracotta pots and in Mediterranean style gardens.

An Olive Tree in a garden setting

An Olive Tree in a garden setting

Growing conditions:  If you have a protected city garden or live in a mild area, olives can be grown outdoors as long as you give them a sunny position and plant them in well-drained soil, for example, against a warm wall would be ideal.  In cold or northern regions winter protection in a conservatory for example, will be required.

Once established they are extremely drought-tolerant, but plants will do better if watered regularly in dry spells during the growing seasons. To encourage strong growth, it’s a good idea to feed each spring with a general fertiliser, such as Vitax Q4. Olives naturally shed their older leaves in spring (April in the UK) as new growth begins.

Olives are not entirely hardy in the UK, and will be damaged by temperatures below -10°C (14°F). So, in colder areas of the country, you can grow olives in large (60cm, 24ins) diameter and depth) containers. Plant in a well-drained mix of compost, such as loam-based John Innes No 3 with 20 percent by volume added horticultural grit. You can place containers outdoors in summer and then move into a cold conservatory, porch or greenhouse over winter.

Olives ready to eat- Picture by K'm

Olives ready to eat- Picture by K’m

Although they can cope with dry periods, olives in containers need regular watering and feeding to produce fruit. During the growing season keep the compost moist and feed with a balanced liquid fertiliser such as Phostrogen or seaweed, every month. In winter, you can reduce watering, but don’t let the compost dry out completely.

Olive trees can live for several centuries and can remain productive for as long if they are pruned correctly and regularly. 

The Olive Tree of Jerusalem mural

The Olive Tree of Jerusalem mural

Further information:

Wikipedia

RHS- Olea europaea

Barcham trees directory- Olea europaea

‘The Olive Branches Out’- Daily Telegraph

Old School Gardener

jasmine-bush OK, I know that Jasmine is technically a shrub or climber and not strictly a ‘perennial’ but it is a perennial plant like all shrubs, so perhaps you’ll allow me some license on a letter of the alphabet that is decidely low on choice of ‘proper perennials’!

Jasmine (Jasminum) is a genus in the olive family (Oleaceae). It contains around 200 species native to tropical and warm temperate regions. Jasmines are widely cultivated for the characteristic fragrance of their flowers. They can be either deciduous or evergreen, and can be erect, spreading, or climbing in habit. The flowers are typically around 2.5 cm (0.98 in) in diameter, are white or yellow in colour, although in rare instances they can be slightly reddish. The flowers are borne in clusters with a minimum of three flowers, though they can also be solitary on the ends of branchlets. Each flower has about four to nine petals. They are usually very fragrant. The berry fruits of jasmines turn black when ripe.  Of the 200 species, only one is native to Europe, but a number of jasmine species have become naturalized in the Mediterranean area. For example, the so-called Spanish jasmine or Catalonian jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum) was originally from Iran and south western Asia, and is now naturalized in Spain and Portugal.

Widely cultivated for its flowers, jasmine is enjoyed in the garden, as a house plant, and as cut flowers. The flowers are worn by women in their hair in southern and southeast Asia. The delicate jasmine flower opens only at night and may be plucked in the morning when the tiny petals are tightly closed, then stored in a cool place until night. The petals begin to open between six and eight in the evening, as the temperature lowers.

Symbolically, Jasmine was used to mark the Tunisian revolution of 2011 and the pro democracy protests in China of the same year. Damascus in Syria is called the ‘City of Jasmine’ and in Thailand, jasmine flowers are used as a symbol of motherhood.  Several countries have Jasmine as their national flower. ‘Jasmine’ is also a girls name in some countries.

There are many cultivars of Jasmine – for summer and winter. Jasminum officinale (summer jasmine) is perfect for a sunny, sheltered spot in mild regions of the UK. Trachelospermum jasminoides, also known as ‘Confederate’ or ‘Star Jasmine’ is a sweet-smelling vine with small white flowers. It grows quickly up walls, trellises, fences, and even thrives as ground cover, but It is especially well-suited to be grown indoors.

Trachelospermum jasminoides

Trachelospermum jasminoides

The cheery yellow flowers of Jasminum nudiflorum (winter jasmine) will brighten up even partially shaded and cold sites at a time when little else is in flower. A popular and reliable shrub, introduced from China in 1844, and widely grown as a wall shrub, it can be allowed to scramble freely over a low wall or up a bank, or trained up a vertical framework. Unlike many other jasmines, winter jasmine does not twine, so will need tying-in if grown vertically. The stems are bright green and give an evergreen impression, even in winter when the tiny bright yellow blooms appear, weatherproof in all but the coldest snaps. Regular pruning keeps bushes under control and prevents bare patches from appearing. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

 

All jasmines need a fertile, well-drained soil in full or partial sun. Summer jasmine needs a sheltered spot, full sun and a south- or south west-facing aspect. Winter jasmine is more tolerant of partial shade and a south east or north west aspect. North and north east aspects are best avoided. Frost hardy species are fine in an unheated conservatory or a cold greenhouse kept frost-free with a small heater. Tender species may require a minimum night temperature of 13-15ºC (55-59ºF). Jasmines make lovely container specimens. Ensure you use a container with good drainage holes, cover the holes with crocks or grit, and fill with John Innes No 2 compost. Leave space at the top for watering, and place the pot in bright but filtered light.

Jasmine plant care is not difficult but does require vigilance.Well worth it to have that wonderful evening fragrance in the summer or some brightness in the dark winter months!

 

Sources and further information:

Wikipedia

Beginners guide to Jasmine

Royal Horticultural Society – growing Jasmine

How to grow Jasmine

Pruning Star Jasmine

Growing Jasmine indoors

Trachelospermum – RHS

Old School Gardener

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