Gardening: Tough love

TOUGH GUY:  Euonymus fortunei 'Silver Queen'.
TOUGH GUY: Euonymus fortunei 'Silver Queen'.
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Hard as nails, but an eye-catching shrub, this Silver Queen can take anything. David Overend reports.

It takes a certain amount of strength and endeavour to live and survive in Yorkshire. If it’s not very, very wet, it can be very, very cold.

But thankfully, there are plants more than capable of looking after themselves whatever the weather. Snow and ice, storm and tempest are of little consequence to the likes of Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’, which must rank as one of the toughest shrubs known to man and beast.

Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’ (named after Robert Fortune, the Scottish botanist and traveller best known for introducing tea plants from China to India, back in the 19th century) has been described as a vigorous plant, but it isn’t – it’s a slow-growing evergreen shrub which hails from the Far East; yet it’s now just as much at home in England as it is in its native China and Japan.

Given the right conditions, a healthy specimen can eventually grow to eight feet in height and five feet in width, and trained as a climber, it could eventually reach the dizzy height of 20ft.

But most gardeners grow it at ground level where its shiny green leaves, with white/pink margins, provide an eye-catching show all year round. In fact, the colder the weather, the pinker those leaf margins.

Forget about the tiny flowers, ‘Silver Queen’ is cultivated for its foliage, which is always at its best grown in full sun. If any all-green leaves appear, cut them out immediately or the plant will eventually lose its attractive variegation.

Although a well-drained soil is the best home for the shrub, it can survive just about anywhere – even heavyish clay – as long as the ground isn’t waterlogged. So this is a plant perfect for beds, borders and containers as well as for training up walls and fences.

Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’ (commonly known as Wintercreeper) can be left to grow undisturbed or trimmed to keep it shapely – pot up some of the clippings and the majority should eventually root to provide perfect clones of the parent plant.

And for those gardeners who prefer gold to silver, there’s always ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ with bright-golden, variegated leaves which also turn an attractive pinkish-red in cold weather, making the plant a big hit in the winter months. It makes an excellent specimen shrub, a low, informal hedge or a climber on walls.

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