Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Upright Holly Osmanthus—in bud

osmanthus-heterophyllus-fastigiata-fingers-640

 

October is for Osmanthus flowers, whose buds will soon open.  Oh, oh, oh, my.  They're not much bigger when they open but, oh, the fragrance!  Sweet—and because the small flowers are also hidden at the base of the leaves—also stealthy. 

 

Last year, this bush was in "full fragrance" a week earlier; given the minute size of the blooms this is the kinder phrase than "full bloom."   But there are ten days left in October and these buds are, finally, ready to pop!

 

osmanthus-heterophyllus-fastigiata-fives-640

 

But why, oh why, did I plant this bush so far back in the bed?  Osmanthus don't need to be "right at hand" so much as "right at nose," but in terms of their position it's all the same:  Right by the path, the terrace, the drive, the grass, so you need lean only a few inches forward to be able to breath in deeply and deliciously.  

 

osmanthus-heterophyllus-fastigiata-overall-640

 

This bush is too big to move, though.  To get it closer-to-nose I'll extend a stepping stone or two from the walkway into the plantings.  Maybe even a step up, too.  Then it won't be a "viewing" platform, which, frankly, has been done.  It will be a "sniffing" platform.

 

I've still got a few days to get the sniffing platform ready.  Stay tuned!  

 

 

Here's how to grow this elegant and deliciously-fragrant evergreen:

Latin Name

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Fastigiata'

Common Name

Upright Holly Osmanthus

Family

Oleaceae, the Olive family.

What kind of plant is it?

Evergreen shrub.

Hardiness

Zones 6 (with some forethought and protection) - 9.

Habit

Well-foliaged and broadly-upright shrub.

Rate of Growth

Medium.

Size in ten years

To six feet tall and four feet wide—but my nine-year-old is already that big and doesn't seem to be slowing down at all.

Texture

Much looser and more open than, say, Osmanthus 'Goshiki' or 'Ogon'.  A nice balance of plentiful foliage, which is smallish, deep green, and very pointy (but not bloodthirstily thorny), and visible branches.

Grown for

its handsome foliage, which, indeed, is so holly-like.  The best way to tell osmanthus and holly apart is to remember that osmanthus leaves are opposite, i.e., in pairs, with each leaf directly opposite the other.  Holly —think English holly, Ilex aquifolium— has leaves that alternate up the stems.  Osmanthus : opposite / Ilex aquifolium : alternate.  In Zone 7 and souther, where osmanthus are quick-growing and easy to establish, they are justifiably popular for evergreen hedges. 

 

'Fastigiata' foliage is typical of the hardy osmanthi, in that it's much smaller (and, therefore, somehow, hardier) than the leaves of the more tender varieties, which can be as big as beech leaves.  It's prickly but not painful.  "Heterophyllus" means, in this case, that the leaves can vary a whole lot in how spiny and notched they are.  Now you know. 

 

its upright branching, which makes the bush all the easier to plant as a hedge, either tight and pruned or loose and natural.  (See "How to Handle It" below.)  It's also effective solo, as a specimen. 

 

the small but sweetly-fragrant flowers that, even better, are surprisingly "out of season," in the Fall.

Flowering season

Fall here in Rhode Island: October, when the last thing one might expect is fresh, sweet fragrance in the garden.

Culture

Easy where it's fully hardy!  Full sun to part shade in average to rich soil with good drainage in the Winter.  At the cold end of the hardiness range—the bottom of Zone 7 down into Zone 6—the siting needs to be more advantageously sheltered from Winter wind.  Full sun is better up North, too, which helps each season's growth to ripen as much as possible in Summer and Fall, which, in turn, helps it better withstand the stresses of the coming Winter.  Larger individuals are hardier than youngsters, so buy the biggest you can.

How to handle it

Osmanthi are serviceable "foundation" shrubs in Zones 7 - 9; just plant and then, because you inevitably didn't allow enough room, prune.  Osmanthi accept pruning well, too, so make great hedges. 

 

Zone 7 into Zone 6, any holly osmanthus is somewhat of an achievement, and needs prime siting (see Culture, above) in focal locations so that you and your garden visitors can be justly proud.  It's a help, as well, to site fairly near a pathway (but still with helpful shelter of neighboring structures, fences, or evergreens) so everyone can get their noses right up to the flowers, which are so small (again, like holly) that only their powerful fragrance announces their presence from any distance.  (True holly flowers, though, aren't noticeably fragrant; they're also in Spring, not Fall.)  Siting near a pathway also helps everyone realize that this isn't, after all, just another upright holly, of which there are a number (i.e., the I. meservae cultivars) that are much hardier, more popular, and, therefore, proportionately less interesting.  

 

It's worth it to spray such "focal" osmanthi with anti-dessicant in the Fall, so they look all the better in May despite the trials of January through March.  On the other hand, by the time the flowers happen in Fall, the bushes will have (here's hoping) long recovered from the previous Winter's tip die-back and burned foliage. 

Downsides

If only they were a bit hardier.

Variants

Ah, the osmanthi.  So many to yearn for, not least because so many species aren't hardy at all below Zone 7.  South of the Potomac River, osmanthi are increasingly popular, i.e., not "Uncommon & Astonishing" at all.  But East of the Hudson River?  Notable, indeed.   

 

Osmanthus americanus is the hardiest species by far, with success reported even in Zone 5; there can never be too many hardy broadleaved evergreens in Zone 6 and colder, so the species is desirable on that basis alone. (Plus, there are its fragrant flowers.)  I'm not aware of any O. americanus cultivars. O. heterophyllus is the second hardiest species, but there's a clutch of desirable forms. Far as I can tell, 'Ogon' is the same as 'Aureus'; ogon is Japanese for gold.  'Goshiki' has speckled foliage that, when young, is somewhat pinkish, too; it seems fully hardy in Zone 6.  The young foliage of 'Purpureus' is so dark and shiny it seems dipped in tar; I'm still trying to establish it.  'Gulftide' is green-leaved but reputedly hardier than the species; you can't prove it by me, though.  'Nana' is green-leaved but compact; each of my trio of nanas is threatening—but only just—to top two feet; it seems fully hardy in Zone 6.  'Sasaba' has small, deeply-incised green leaves that, unlike the rest of the "holly" osmanthi, are armed with spines so rigid and sharp they are guaranteed to draw blood.  Of course, I must have it.

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

Cuttings and grafting.

Native habitat

Eastern Asia and Southern Japan

 
 
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