Botanical Poetry for the Garden

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Are you looking for aa small evergreen shrub that thrives in the shade? How about something historical and easy to care for? Poet’s Laurel or Alexandrian Laurel (Danea racemosa) is a rich emerald green shrub that grows 3 feet tall. Its long elegant arching branches give an open habit and it has no significant pests or disease problems. Introduced in 1713, the evergreen was used in Southern Colonial gardens.

Poet’s Laurel is a very slow growing member of the asparagus botanical family. The slender branches contain 2 to 3 inch flattened stems that appear to be leaves. These modified leaves are up to 3 to 4 inches long and glossy, with a tapered oval outline and rich green color. They are 1.5 inches wide and arranged alternately along the branch. Stems last for 3 years and then die so occasional pruning is helpful. The branches make wonderful cut foliage for floral arrangements because the stems remain fresh looking for long periods of time.

Small yellow-green flowers appear in spring tucked into the axils. Clusters of berries follow and grow to ½ inch in size turning orange-red in color. The berries persist into winter becoming the main method of propagation (which is a very slow process). Poet’s Laurel is very difficult to propagate taking 5 or more years to grow from seed. Poet’s Laurel does not root well from cuttings but parent plants can be successfully divided.

Poet’s Laurel is native to the southern edge of the Caspian Sea in Iran as well as the northeastern end of the Mediterranean in Syria. For gardeners that means it is ideally suited to shaded areas in the southeastern states with hardiness zones 6 to 9. The foliage will yellow and burn if exposed to too much direct sunlight. It is best planted in well-drained loamy soils that are moderately moist. Once established the plant will tolerate dry shade but will perform better if kept watered when rain does not occur for 3 or more weeks.

Invite Poet’s Laurel into your shade garden as an elegant plant.