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Escallonia - Care Guide
Escallonia are evergreen shrubs from South America that are most easily split into two distinct categories or groups. There are species and varieties which make excellent freestanding plants in shrub borders, or in a woodland setting, and there are those species and varieties which are most commonly used as garden hedges.
In the wild Escallonia grow in woodland and scrub where they will achieve a height of 8-10ft in maturity. Typically they have oval glossy leaves and terminal racemes of white, pink or red flowers over a long period in the summer. The varieties which we currently grow in the nursery are perfectly hardy in a normal winter and are excellent in coastal locations when exposed to strong winds and salt spray. A certain amount of browning and defoliation of the leaves after severe storms should be no great cause for concern as they will quickly and resiliently reshoot albeit with some occasional dieback.
Escallonia can be propagated from semi-ripe cuttings in late summer. We find it easiest to propagate the hedging varieties as hardwood cuttings taken in late autumn and set out in rows in a field context. This produces larger, more saleable, plants more quickly.
Ornamental varieties of Escallonia
E. ‘Iveyi’ is perhaps my personal favourite. Mr Ivey was a gardener at Caerhays who, in the early 1920s, crossed two species, E. bifida and E. x exoniensis, to create this new hybrid. It has a vigorous and upright habit with glossy foliage and large panicles of white flowers mainly in the late summer and autumn. These are a major attraction to late season butterflies and fritillaries in particular. It grows at Caerhays in large clumps which are cut down to rejuvenate them every 20 years or so.
E. ‘Apple Blossom’ is a much more compact and bushy shrub with glossy elliptic dark green leaves and has short racemes of apple-blossom-pink flowers with white centres in midsummer.
E. ‘Peach Blossom’ is a similar variety in terms of its leaves and habit but the flowers are a clear peach-pink.
E. ‘Red Carpet’ has a compact spreading habit and dark pink-red flowers.
Hedging varieties of Escallonia
Escallonia hedges require quite a bit of attention to keep them in shape and are normally no more than 3-5ft in height having been planted as a double row some 18in apart with 18in spacings between plants. Pruning should take place once a year when flowering has finished in the late summer or autumn. As Escallonia flower only on the new growth you have to give the hedge time to grow new shoots to give a decent flowering effect next season.
E. rubra ‘Crimson Spire’ is a strong growing shrub with dark glistening green leaves and bright crimson flowers.
E. rubra var. macrantha is the best hedging Escallonia for coastal exposure and is capable of growing vigorously up to 12ft in height. It is therefore ideal for pruning back into a hedge. The flowers are rose-crimson set amid large glossy, aromatic leaves.