myrtus communis

Usually considered to be just that little bit too tender to be reliable in most gardens in the UK, I have found myrtle (Myrtus communis) to be reliable in a raised bed facing south where it has grown for 15 years and come through most winters unharmed. It is a Mediterranean native and has a long association with the myths and legends of the ancient Greeks and Romans. To the Greeks it was associated with immortality because it is evergreen and it was also associated with love. It was linked with Venus and Aphrodite. Wreaths of myrtle were worn around the waist to make the wearer irresistible. But it was also a component of bride’s wedding celebrations and was used as such in Germany more recently and it has links with that most famous of German brides, Victoria. Her wedding bouquet was of snowdrops but when she visited Albert’s grandmother in 1845 she was given a posy that contained myrtle from her garden and from that was grown a specimen that was planted at her home, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. It has been traditional ever since to include a spray of the plant in Royal wedding bouquets, a tradition continued by Kate Middleton.

It is much hardier once it is established so needs a sheltered spot in well drained soil and, perhaps, some fleece the first few years in cold weather. But once it has settled down it seems much hardier. It withstands pruning very well and if it gets cut back by frost it will sprout from the base. If it is not pruned hard though, you will be delighted with round flower buds that look like pearls for  a day as the petals show before they open into fluffy flowers packed full of stamens. Bees love these and as they fade the floor is covered in pollen and petals.

If you want something more fussy there are small-leaved and variegated versions but, rather unlike me, I think I like the plain and simple, wild plant best.

myrtus communis2

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2 Comments on “Myrtle”

  1. derrickjknight
    September 8, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

    We have two – one has been allowed to grow into a large tree

    • thebikinggardener
      September 8, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

      Mine is only about 1.5m high but it gets pruned every now and then to keep it in check. I am sure your large one is lovely when in bloom 🙂

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