Skimmias are not my favourite plants but, now that I am gardening in Ireland and can find semi-shady spots in acidic soil between camellias and rhododendrons, I can get them to grow well. Too often, on alkaline soils or in hot, sunny locations, they look awful as their new growth is sickly lime green and the older leaves fall prematurely. So I have been popping new skimmias in all over the place. This is partly down to the fact that I need plants to put in winter pots and Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ is widely available and looks so good in winter with its red flower buds which open to creamy, deliciously fragrant flowers in March.
Of course skimmias are best known for their large, attractive, red berries but plants are (in almost every case) male OR female and only females produce berries and then only if there is a male plant nearby (it does not need to be beside it) so the bees can take the pollen across to pollinate the female flowers.
Red berries are common enough in the garden but white berries are much less common and Skimmia japonica ‘Fructo Albo’ is a real gem. The berries are pure white and large and stand out beautifully against the dark green leaves. I have this in the garden back home and when I found them for sale yesterday I had to buy some to add to the garden here.
Skimmias are easy to grow in average soil, in part shade (or sun in cooler climates) and are spreading, evergreen shrubs that usually grow to about 90cm high and as much, or more, across. If plants get too big they can be cut back in spring but regular pruning is not necessary.