It’s late October and it’s now you smell this large shrub / small tree metres before you see it. The sweet fragrance coming from plant of the week – Osmanthus heterophyllus greets you in the most wonderful way. The word osmanthus derives from Greek and means fragrant flower, here the name here says it all. Commonly known as holly olive or holly osmanthus, the plant is otherwise in demand due to dark evergreen, leathery leaves.
The leaves are actually rather interesting as they change with maturity – in a young shrub they are holly-like with spiny margins switching into a more simple, elliptic or ovate shape when adult. The colour remains the same though. Native to central and southern Japan and Taiwan, it’s part of olive family Oleaceae, hence the name holly olive.
The specimen here grows in partial shade, but the plant can also cope with full sun. Preferred soil should be well-drained and it tolerates a range of soil types as well as pH-values. From a design perspective, being evergreen and dense, it works well as a hedge or screen. I think the dark green leaves have a very stylish feel about them, making the shrub suitable in a formal setting. Many would perhaps appreciate the plant being classified as low-maintenance. It’s a relatively hardy plant handling even severe winters (-15 to -10 degrees C).