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Duranta – A Must Landscape Bush For A Mild Winter Garden - by Jonathan Yaakobi

Duranta erecta is a fast growing shrub that reaches about 4-5 meters (20-25ft). With consistent pruning, it can be kept to lesser dimensions and so is suitable for small as well as larger gardens. Although originating from sub-tropical North America and Mexico, it is also suitable for those Mediterranean climates that do not experience winter frosts. It is known by a variety of common names such as Sky Flower, Golden Dew Drop, and Pigeon Berry.

There are a number of varieties belonging to the species, possessing a plethora of names, which seem to differ from place to place. They are all similar to each other however, and this makes it possible to grow different plants together, thereby creating a subtle variation on a theme.

In a number of small but significant ways, Duranta erecta has landscaping features that are almost unique to the species. From my experience, the shades of green are unmatched in the gardening world. The most common types possessing foliage of a very special medium hue, while some have lovely gold colored leaves.

They all have gorgeous, violet-blue flowers that though individually small, grow in a mass, creating a powerful effect. There is often though, considerable variation in this regard within the species. The blooms also appear at the same time as the tiny, orange berries, which hang down in panicles. The violet and orange together, makes for an unusual but attractive combination. There seems to be some confusion as to whether the berries are poisonous or not.

The medium leaf texture means that Duranta erecta associates well with trees and shrubs that have similar foliage. It therefore goes well with the usual Mediterranean type plants like Pistachio, Olive, Pomegranate, and Sumac, but less successfully in my opinion with the course leaves and large flowers common to plants like Hibiscus. A quite stunning effect can be created by combining the golden-leaved Durantas with grey-leaved shrubs like Leocophyllum, or with deep, purple-leaved bushes such as Cotinus.

In most garden situations, Duranta needs regular pruning and trimming to maintain bushy, compact growth. Care must be taken however, not to remove all the flower buds at the same time. With a little bit of sensitivity and common sense, this is not too hard to achieve, as the plant flowers so profusely through the summer. Alternatively, it can be limbed up as a small tree. To grow it on a single trunk is rather difficult, as the plant grows so rapidly, but it can easily be turned into a multiple-stemmed tree.

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Jonathan Ya'akobi

Your Personal Gardening Coach

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