The Gardens at Heather Farm offer many places for a respite from the busyness of our urban setting. Nestled on six acres within the 102-acre Heather Farm Park, the Gardens provides areas where visitors can find a bench or a grassy area to picnic. If you sit quietly for long enough, you’ll see bluebirds flying from branch to branch eating insects, and digging in the soft soil for worms. Battles are beginning over which will build their nests in the bluebird boxes installed here by the Audubon Society about five years ago.
At the top of the Mural Garden, two benches offer nice vistas of the gardens and park. In winter months when not much is in bloom, the bright spot in this garden is Elaegnus x ebbingei ‘Gilt’s Edge’. This plant’s waxy, deep-green leaves are edged in yellow with specks of silver dusted on top; the undersides are just as beautiful with their copper silver sheen, consisting of tiny scales. The rust-colored stems have fine hairs, and both are characteristics of a plant that can withstand heat. This plant makes you think of bright sunlight, even on a gray day.
One of 45 species that include evergreen and deciduous shrubs and trees growing throughout Europe, Asia and North America, Elaeagnus x ebbingei is an evergreen shrub that grows up to 10 feet in height. It makes a good addition for a sunny garden, but can tolerate shade, and so is well suited for spaces under deciduous trees. At the Gardens at Heather Farm, it grows in full sun during the winter months, but in partial shade once the trees in the Mural Garden have leafed out. Small, fragrant, silver-white, bell-shaped flowers bloom during autumn; they are followed by small red fruit that is edible.
Known for its toughness, Elaeagnus tolerates poor soils, since its root nodules contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria that enrich the soil. Once established, the plant is fine with minimal amounts of water in summer. It stands up to hard shearing and shaping, or can be lightly shaped during the winter months to maintain its size. It grows fairly quickly, and several plants can be placed to create a hedge, windbreak or screen.