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At a glance these two species are easy to confuse. Their evergreen leaves look alike and their nodding white & brown flowers bloom reliably every November. Both are really tough, accepting the hottest and driest and windiest conditions Portland can offer. Run your hands along a branch though, and you'll quickly discover the difference. Thorns! The thorns on E. pungens are up to 2" long & they hurt so beware. Plant this in a spot where it can grow without being pruned. E. ebbingei is the kinder gentler version with nice smooth stems.
Grows 10' x 10', 'Gilt Edge' is smaller, 4-6' tall. Sun to part shade - plants in sun grow more densely, Zone 6-7
E. ebbingei 'Gilt Edge'
Sweet Scarlet Goumi Berry
Grown for red berries that taste like pie cherries, Goumi Berries have sweet smelling white flowers in May and are easy to care for, bug & disease resistant shrubs. Plants are self-fertile but will produce more if planted with another variety. Berries ripen in July. (Photo credit to One Green World).
Grows 6' x 6', sun, Zone 4
Autumn Olive is not related to true olives, which depending on how you feel about olives could be a good or bad thing. This has nutrient rich red or amber berries in September and fragrant white flowers in May. It's self fertile, cold hardy and reports to improve soils where it's planted.
Grows 10-12' x 10-12', sun, Zone 3
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5050 SE Stark, Portland, OR
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Genus: Elaeagnus (e-lee-AG-nus)
Common: Silverberry, Autumn Olive, Goumi Berry, Russian Olive
Origin: Native to Asia & Southern Europe
Characteristics: There are around 45 species of shrubs and small trees in this genus. This article focuses on shrubs. Flowers are small and often fragrant, usually white or white with pale brown dotting. Edible fruit is brown to red. There are both evergreen and deciduous species. Evergreen leaves shimmer like sharkskin or are variegated with gold or cream. Branches are often thorny.
Size: Shrubs are usually large, in the 6-12' range
Culture: Sun to part shade; growth is less dense in shade. All Elaeagnus shrubs adapt to most soils and are tough, withstanding wind and drought beautifully once established. Water during the first summer & during dry spells in the first winter, and then leave it alone.
Problems: Thorns can be vicious during pruning, so wear rose-pruning gloves or plant it in a spot where it can grow unhindered.