Evergreen shrubs are a central part of any garden, especially in warmer areas, where there are many different ones available to use. They provide structure and stability, and if they also have flowers and fragrance, then that is definitely an added bonus. The Gulftide False Holly is exactly such a plant. With its lustrous deep-green leaves all year, and fragrant white flowers in fall, it brings great mid-sized structure to your shrub beds and perfumes your garden for many weeks each year. It makes an aromatic end to the summer, and although the white flowers are small and nestled among the leaves, their fragrance spreads across the garden and is unmistakable. It is an ideal plant for shady parts of the garden, and it can also be planted in a row, spacing the plants 2 to 3 feet apart, to make a beautiful clipped or unclipped hedge.
Growing Gulftide Osmanthus Bushes
The Gulftide False Holly is a dwarf selection of the False Holly. This plant is also sometimes called Holly Olive, and thrives throughout the milder areas of the country, from zone 6 to 9. When young it should be regularly watered, but it is drought resistant when well established in the garden. It grows to about 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, making a perfect background or mid-ground shrub among your other plants. With its glossy leaves it always looks attractive. At first glance it might be mistaken for a holly bush, but if you look more closely you will see that the leaves are in pairs up the stems, while true holly has the leaves placed one at a time along the stems.
This plant is unusual because it produces two kinds of leaves. The leaves of the new shoots are spiny, just like a holly bush, which of course it where this plant got its common name. These leaves have 3 to 5 spines along each side, and one at the tip of the leaf. The leaves that develop on older stems are more rounded, without spines, and up to 2½ inches long. This spiny growth protects the plant from deer, so if you have deer coming onto your property in winter, you will appreciate how valuable that quality is.
In fall, small flowers are produced in the space where the leaf meets the stem. These are small, but in clusters, and each flower has four petals. Although not the precise variety used for perfume making, it has a similar scent, often compared to the smell of ripe apricots. These flowers develop in fall, which is unusual, and makes this plant more valuable, since most other flowering plants have finished blooming by that time of year. Sometimes the blooms are followed by small, dark purple-black fruits that are the reason for the name holly olive.
Planting and Initial Care
Choose a sunny or shady location for your Gulftide False Holly. In hotter areas it will benefit from afternoon shade, and its ability to grow in full shade, beneath trees and in the shade of buildings, is a great asset for this plant. It will grow best if the soil is enriched with plenty of organic material, and if it receives regular watering. Once established it is resistant to normal periods of summer drought. It has no particular pests or diseases and it is deer resistant. In colder parts of zone 6 it is a good idea to water well in late fall and mulch the ground over the root-zone, to protect the roots from freezing hard.
History and Origins of the Gulftide Osmanthus Bush
False Holly (Osmanthus heterophyllus) is a plant native to Japan and the island of Taiwan. It was introduced into Europe and North America in the middle of the 19th century, during the great opening up of Japan to trade with the rest of the world, and especially with America. In Japan and Taiwan it can grow into a large tree, but in cultivation it is usually seen around 10 feet tall. ‘Gulftide’ is a selected more compact variety greatly admired, by gardeners in the know, for its dense form, deep green leaf color and robust, spiny and slightly twisted leaves. Its exact origins seem to have been lost. Cheaper seedling plants will be very inferior to this carefully selected variety, so don’t be disappointed by taking inferior cheaper plants that might be offered you.