I have an affinity for Chilean plants, but scant luck in growing many in my own garden. That doesn’t keep me from trying–searching for the perfect microclimate, one that fits the bill of “sheltered location” while also having decent light. In my plot, areas that receive full sun are battered by chilly winter winds or are low spots where cold air drains and settles. Not exactly heaven for marginally hardy plants.
Azara integrifolia, thankfully, is thriving so far. When I saw this endearing shrub in full flower in the wilds of Patagonia, I was smitten. It’s not routinely found in the nursery trade, but a fellow friend and plant geek nabbed one for me at a specialty nursery for my birthday 5 years ago. It had been in a mere 4″ pot when it went in the ground and I lucked out in situating it. Receiving sun in the late morning through the early evening, it has expanded happily to a bushy 4′ shrub and this year it bloomed for the first time. What a show!
For about a month it transitioned from bud to full bloom; most of May. Azara shone golden yellow with its tight and bright button buds that opened to pom poms. On warm evenings, the fragrance could be caught on the breeze. The new leaves were unfurling as it began to flower and now the whole shrub is fresh and shiny green. One of it’s charms is the two different sizes of leaves, longer, serrated ones combined with small rounded ones called stipules that sit up along the branches.
I’m impressed that my goldspire has made it this far–especially after enduring brutal cold snaps since it’s been planted and this year’s ice storm. Each time we’ve been hit with temps below 15 degrees for more than a day or two it has defoliated, but each spring, it has rebounded with new leaves and gets a little fuller and taller. I think it helps that the area it’s planted in was well amended with compost prior to planting. No doubt, its protection from the winds that buffet other areas of my property is key, too. In milder climes it’s an evergreen.
Azara microphylla (chinchin), the better known species here in the Pacific Northwest, also does well in my upper yard against a fence. Per chance there is hope for the recently purchased Embothrium coccineum (Chilean flame flower) that awaits planting. The nursery tag says “plant in a sheltered location away from winter winds”.
© Colleen Miko, 2012