2016

 
 

Here is a tough as nails broad-leaved evergreen that is tremendously underutilized. It is Photinia serratifolia, or Photinia serrulata, more commonly known as Chinese photinia and is in the same family, Rosacea, as hawthorns and apples. This tree, or shrub, is large, reaching 30 feet, occasionally much more. But the form is highly variable. It can easily be “limbed-up” and rendered into a small tree or allowed to grow into a large shrub or pruned into a tidy hedge. This makes Chinese photinia useful in any garden. But it also has many, more aesthetic assets. The basic appeal is the glossy, dark green foliage which is as handsome as a holly year-round. These leaves, as long as 8 inches and with toothed margins, make a glossy, dark green background for the brilliant red leaves of winter. But even more impressive is the spring foliage of Chinese photinia which is a complex array of bronze, copper and salmon and is exceptionally eye-catching. This display is not a bright as the Red tipped or Fraser's photinia, but it is richer and more complex. But there are even more assets to this small tree. The white flowers are quite small and not particularly fragrant, but, they are borne in 6 inch clusters and are quite showy in summer against the dark green canvas of the foliage. But even better are the clusters of bright scarlet berries that appear in autumn and persist well into winter.

There is, in fact, hardly a season of the year that this splendid, broadleaf evergreen doesn't make some contribution to the home landscape. Chinese photinia can be grown as a specimen or grouped with others to form long hedges, privacy screens or windbreaks and it is ideal beneath power-lines. It is adaptable to most climates growing from the tropics to the temperate zones, but not areas with extreme cold. In Canada, it is suited to British Columbia and in the United States it does well across the southern half of the country as well as the moderate coastal regions. And it is very well-suited to Australia and New Zealand and is fully hardy in the UK. Of course, it must have full sun to do well and well-drained soil but otherwise it can handle acid or alkaline, clay, sand, gravel and poor soils and it is quite drought tolerant and good for xeriscaping. Also the fruit is food for wild-life while the dense foliage provides shelter.

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Chinese photinia

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