Plant Of The Season
There are many different forms and names of this versatile shrub/small tree. Euonymus europaea is native to Britain and is known as the spindle tree because its hard, dense wood was used to make the spindles for spinning. Its other names are prickwood (because it was used for toothpicks) and skewerwood (because the wood was made into butchers’ skewers).
Spindle trees grow easily even in the poorest of soils, but they do best in well drained conditions in sun or partial shade where they can reach a height of more than eight metres. The tree produces small whitish flowers that turn into distinctive pink fruit, each holding a bright-orange seed pod.
The fruit is toxic to humans but is enjoyed by birds, particularly robins. The tree really comes into its own in autumn when the leaves turn vibrant shades of red.
In the garden euonymus is usually used in its more compact shrub form where it makes a colourful addition to borders. Most plants are slow growing, but there are some varieties that will grow fast enough to eventually cover a wall.
nlike the spindle tree, euonymus shrubs are usually evergreen with striped yellow and green or white and green leaves. They are very hardy and can withstand most temperatures. The plants will appreciate a mulch in spring but otherwise only need light pruning to keep in shape.
keep an eye out for any shoots that are dark green rather than variegated and cut these out. With so many varieties and sizes to choose from there is a euonymus to suit most gardens I have E. fortunei “Emerald Gaiety” which has silver and white leaves with pink edges next to E. fortunei Emerald and Gold and they make a lovely contrast to each other.