A favourite winter shrub in our garden is the Garrya elliptica, also known as the silk tassel tree. It's catkins are one of winter's delights, and this year the shrub is covered with them.
Garrya is a small genus distributed along North America's western coastlands, from Mexico to Oregon. Garrya elliptica, the hardiest species and the one best suited to the British climate, was introduced to us by Scottish plant hunter David Douglas in 1828. He named the plants after the Hudson Bay Company's Nicholas Garry, who helped Douglas with his forays in western USA.
Garryas enjoy growing in well drained soil in full sun or partial shade. They dislike root disturbance and once planted and established will often die if they are transplanted elsewhere. It is, therefore, important to site them in an ideal situation from the beginning. The protection of a north or east facing wall often proves to be an ideal location for them in this country.
It is best to purchase a male plant as their catkins are far more showy and attractive than the ones seen on a female plant. The male catkins hang together in elegant pendulous clusters, are about 6ins - 8ins long, and gently swing to and fro in a breeze.