Martinis In the Garden

“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” is a song performed by Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet, and written by Jim “Moose” Brown and Don Rollins. The title refers to a popular expression used to justify drinking at any time of day, given that somewhere in the world it’s 5:00 p.m. (the end of the work day for a traditional “nine-to-five” worker)” Wikipedia. Whatever your libation of choice may be at the end of your day, week or special occasion, Martinis are no longer just on the drink menu, they can be planted in your garden too!

Olive Martini™ Elaeagnus, Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Viveleg’ PP20177 (E. macrophylla x E. pungens) has common names of Silverberry, Oleaster, Silverthorn and thorny olive. Full disclosure, Silverthorn is often seen as a fast growing, weedy ornamental able to grow and thrive in a variety of conditions. Tolerant of shade, drought and salt, animals and birds can disperse seed, expanding “its area of distribution.” In a word… it’s often seen as invasive. This cultivar, however, is not! According to, “no reference that we have lists this species as invasive in North America. This species is included for comparison to other species that are considered invasive.” Now that we have that out of the way, let’s examine the attributes of “Martini”.

Olive Martini™ Elaeagnus is a unique evergreen plant, I find beautiful, useful in landscapes. Early spring, the leaves take on a silvery hue, an almost dusted appearance. As the foliage matures, intense gold-edged leaves create a stunning display that lasts through the winter. Sturdy structure and stable color are its makeup, yet Olive Martini™ is an afterthought to the likes of viburnum, burning bush, forsythia, osmanthus and privet as possible hedge solutions. Hardy in zones 6-9, this showy evergreen is primarily grown for its extraordinary foliage. Capable of reaching heights and widths of 10-15 feet, this plant is not for the meek. An ability to swallow up large areas quickly, Olive Martini™ has great value and promise even when purchasing smaller sized containers. Part of the Southern Living Plant Collection, Olive Martini™ is a durable, deer resistant, sun/part shade, wet or dry plant that lends itself well as a formal hedge candidate. Remember to water this plant regularly to establish and it appreciates well drained soil. “Plant Geeks” be mindful that, “this cultivar possesses metallic scales on the leaf typical of other cultivars.” Fascinating to me, UC Landscape Plant Irrigation Trials™ (UC Davis) suggests that Olive Martini™ be irrigated on low water to slow and control overall growth.

While the glossy, pointed leaves of Olive Martini™ are highly ornamental, it does feature subtle clusters of fragrant, creamy bell-shaped flowers in the autumn. This multi-stemmed evergreen, with its rounded form, appears balanced against needle conifers, deciduous beauties, or perennial counterparts. Olive Martini™ could be pruned almost any time of year. However, maintaining this exciting evergreen in late winter, once Mother Nature is through with us, is widely recommended. Not just tolerating heavy clay soil types, but thriving in them, Olive Martini™ seems destined to succeed in “Jersey” landscapes.

Olive Martini™ is an interspecific hybrid, tolerant of urban pollution. Nearly two years ago, a client referred us to his friends in Hoboken, NJ. Potential clients who had purchased a brownstone, with an amazing courtyard and enormous potential. Clients with means, both well-traveled, avid collectors of art, and have extraordinary eyes for detail. Their hope was for something different. A vision to outline and frame their inner, first floor courtyard with a plant type not often seen. Voilà, we offered Olive Martini™ to satisfy for thirst for their Italian travels. Planting every 6 feet apart, we wrapped their well-lit interior courtyard with some 22 hefty specimens, placing their classical marble Roman portrait busts, suspended on short Corinthian columns, within the Martinis. Imagine, 11 front lit sculptures recessed within this variegated evergreen, maintained at 8 feet.

The client’s vision of a well-balanced, livable space, conjuring up past experiences to Italy, became a reality. At last check, their 6-foot wall is defining their architecture and creating the escape they had so hoped for. Strongly variegated evergreen foliage, dusted with silver, framing their Roman busts has me feeling, I too am in Italy. Thankfully these clients, now friends, include me on their guest list every year to celebrate Vulcanalia. A festival held in late August to honor Vulcan, the God of fire. While Romans were especially concerned about crops burning in dry heat, our client’s celebration is set to extinguish the thirst of their guests with healthy libations during the summer heat. A soiree not for the timid!

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