Skimmia, four seasons wonder... This shrub (officially called Skimmia japonica) constantly manifests itself in new ways throughout the year. In November the plant displays the buds of its sturdy, attractive flower spikes. The colour and the buds continue to look beautiful all winter long. In April/May the buds open and Skimmia flowers with white/pink flowers with a strong scent: bees love them. The first new buds appear at the end of August. And one constant is the leathery leaves that remain beautifully green throughout the year.
The Skimmia range has expanded in recent years with many new cultivars. They vary in terms of the colour of the bud, the leaf colour (green or variegated) and the compactness of the plant. There are both compact dwarf Skimmias and specimens that have a much larger, looser shape. The most common cultivar of Skimmia japonica is ‘Rubella’, with its red buds. There are also other red varieties such as ‘Rubesta’, ‘Rubinetta’ and ‘Red Dwarf’. Plants with green/white buds are: ‘Finchy’, ‘White Globe’, ‘White Dwarf’, ‘Godries Dwarf Green’, and ‘Fragrant Cloud’ (scented). Some red berry-bearing Skimmias are: ‘Pabella’, ‘Obsession’, ‘Veitchii’ and ‘Temptation’.
- The first Skimmia came to Europe in 1838 and ended up in the greenhouses of Kew Gardens.
- The Latin name was created in 1784 from 'Miyama shikimi’, the Japanese name for Skimmia.
- Skimmia japonica 'Pabella’ is a cousin of Skimmia japonica 'Rubella’, which is known for its beautiful sprays of flowers.
- For the plant to thrive in your garden, you need to place a male Skimmia alongside a couple of females to ensure pollination. The male plant can be identified by its shape, it flowers slightly more vigorously, and the flowers have pistils.
Skimmia is a member of the rue family (Rutaceae), which also includes citrus trees. The family resemblance is clear from the leaves: if you crush them, it releases a citrus fragrance. In the wild Skimmia grows in the forests of China and other parts of Asia such as the Himalayas. However, the version in your garden was most probably grown in a greenhouse.
Sales and display tips
Skimmia is a perfect transition plant between all the red and orange of the early autumn and the approaching December festivities. Highlighted alongside other autumn successes such as heather and ivy, and supplement the display with some home accessories that match the season, like lanterns, a pair of wellies, and a rake. Because Skimmia is a popular front door plant (one either side of the door), it’s a good idea to display the plants symmetrically, already placed in an attractive pot or zinc bucket.
Garden Plant of the Month
Skimmia is the Garden Plant for November 2018. The ‘Garden Plant of the Month’ is an initiative from the Flower Council of Holland. Every month the Flower Council works with representatives of the floriculture sector to choose a plant with an amazing look or unusual characteristics to put in the spotlight. Sometimes it will be a green star that’s highlighted, and sometimes an undiscovered treasure that deserves to be better known and merits a place in the garden, on the patio or on the balcony. Because everyone is happier with more plants.
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