Pittosporaceae’s best kept secret
06 July 2014 - by Lizzy Browne

(First posted Saturday, October 22, 2011)

It’s that time of year when those who grow tender  exotic plants start getting the jitters. We want to savour our gardens for as  long as possible and indeed many specimens such as Cannas, Gingers and Dahlias  are at their peak. They’re still growing and blooming and the cooler weather  will harden them off before they spend a long winter under cover. However none  of us want to be caught short – it’s all well and good planning to leave  everything to the last minute but what if it takes a week of lifting or wrapping  to protect the plants and the Met only give us a couple of days notice of frost.  That may be the case but I’m not going to get into a panic about it - I believe  at this time of year, the chance of frost severe enough to kill most tenders is  highly unlikely. Indeed many gardeners use frost blackened leaves as their cue  to begin the big dig and wrap. So, we have yet to take a spade to our Exotic  Garden, but are keeping a very sharp eye on the weather forecast.
But we must  start our preparations for winter somewhere so today we began lifting some of  the evergreens we planted in our stock borders earlier in the year. In April we  planted sixty or so tiny Pittosporun tenuifolium ‘County Park’, to fatten up  into chunky plants for sale next year.

County Park is one of my all time favourites of all plants and I  am astounded that it isn’t in wider circulation. It’s a very architectural  evergreen shrub, forming soft, round orbs, about a metre in diameter, with  fresh, shiny green, wavy-margined leaves.

It’s incredibly tactile and springy; I can’t resist prodding it  every time I pass just so I can watch it quiver and bounce. It’s a superb  alternative to Box and much faster growing (Box doesn’t bounce either).

Although our plants were damaged by last year’s severe weather  (so was Box), they have now made a complete recovery. It’s possibly my fault as  I pruned them in late September, which of course breaks all the pruning rules,  and I paid the price with blackened late growth. Although County Park is  naturally spherical I clip ours, as I prefer compact round balls as opposed to  loose shaggy ones. Why more nurseries don’t list this wonderful shrub remains a  mystery to me.

So today, we dug up the County Parks and potted them into 10L  pots. We’ll keep them under unheated glass, just in case we suffer another  severe winter, and they should be peachy for next spring.

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