Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’
Elaeagnus are tough, cold hardy and extremely adaptable small trees or large shrubs that have become popular garden plants in many regions of the globe. They’re indigenous to Asia, with a few species found in Southern Europe and North America.
Elaeagnus x Ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’, the cultivar featured in this month’s plant profile, is a hybrid of garden origin. ‘Gilt Edge’ is a shrub that grows three to four metres tall and almost as wide. Dense and bushy from the base, the plants are clothed in robust, leathery leaves with an attractive variegation.
Each leaf is elliptic in shape, grows to 10 cm in length and is rich green with a wide golden-yellow margin. The under surface of the leaves are a distinctive silver shade with prominent rust coloured scales. Tubular, cream or white ‑ flowers, about 10 to 12 mm long, appear from the leaf axils in autumn.
Although rather inconspicuous the flowers are sweetly scented and are often identified by their fragrance rather than seen by the eye. Interestingly, the ‑ flowers are also covered in tiny silver scales, like the underside of the leaves.
Elaeagnus x Ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’ survives in an extensive range of growing conditions. Sun or shade, dry impoverished soils and close proximity to the sea are all challenging areas to which the plant is able to adapt, however, it most enjoys rich, well drained soils and sunshine. These conditions foster the best possible garden performance.
Regular feeding with a balanced garden fertiliser that is high in nitrogen encourages vigorous and healthy growth with lush foliage. Regular clipping during the growing season keeps the shrubs neat, tidy and compact; left to grow unchecked they can reach huge proportions, ultimately becoming rather large and unwieldy.
Garden uses are numerous and varied, although the primary function of the plant is as an evergreen hedge or screen for cold, frosty, exposed gardens. It clips into interesting topiary specimens of varying shape and form, and is an attractive container subject in large pots, especially in areas where many other plants are deciduous. The foliage always makes a bold statement in winter and early spring in areas ravaged by severe cold.
Sprigs of the foliage last well in water and are popular with floral artists. A winner in all cold, windswept gardens around the land this Elaeagnus could just be the answer to many a gardener’s prayer. Perhaps the name ‘Gilt Edge’ refers not only to the golden variegated border on each leaf but also to the virtues and versatility of this most rewarding garden shrub.
Elaeagnus x Ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’ at a glance
• A tough, cold hardy and enduring evergreen shrub
• Attractive variegated leaves and inconspicuous ‑ flowers
• Makes a dense, neat and tidy hedge or screening plant.