Plant This: Twisted Myrtle is a Pure Delight All Year Round
Lush green foliage and a whimsical form make this evergreen a standout in landscapes.
By John Roark | Photography by David B. Moore
Friends who know my garden often ask me how my Dr. Seuss tree is growing,” says landscape architect Greg Trutza of the prized twisted myrtle (Myrtus communisis ‘Boetica’) in his own backyard. “It can certainly look like something he would have illustrated. It is guaranteed to be the first shrub your eyes will be drawn to focus upon.”
Trutza incorporates the plant into a wide variety of landscape styles, and it often becomes his clients’ favorite feature. “Twisted myrtle is pure delight to the eye all year round, whether in xeriscape plantings or in more verdant settings of both contemporary and traditional styles. The true beauty of this remarkable plant is as a stand-alone accent specimen.”
This species originates from the Mediterranean, and thus also grows well here in the Southwest. A member of the Eucalyptus family, it has a refreshing smell when the leaves are crushed and contains a type of oil that helps it survive our sun exposure. The evergreen foliage provides beauty, sustenance and shelter all seasons as the white flowers attract pollinators and the nontoxic berries are a delight for birds. The plant can be used in large pots with adequate root space and drainage. However, they do best where they can grow their roots deeply in the earth to weather the extremes of our climate.
“Twisted myrtle can be used as a screen planting to hide an area of the yard or view, in which case it should be minimally pruned. But many are unaware of this shrub’s inner beauty waiting to be revealed by selectively choosing the main trunks to be exposed by artful pruning,” Trutza raves. “Left untouched, it becomes a dense green amorphous shape, with the leaves growing close to the stems.
“I sometimes defer pruning until prior to the holidays to utilize the branches for a long-lasting display reminiscent of greens grown back East,” Trutza continues. “The trimmings are stunning in a vase on their own or with blooms of your choice.”
Name: Myrtus communis, ‘Boetica’
Type: Evergreen shrub
Size: 8′-10’H by 5′-10’W. In a favorable setting, can grow 15’H by 20’W
Blooms: Spring; abundant white flowers
Water needs: Moderately drought- tolerant. Deep soak intermittently, once per week in summer
Attracts: Birds, bees
Light: Full sun to part shade
Maintenance: Minimal. Shape every year or two once desired form is achieved. To avoid chlorosis, apply an iron supplement (such as Kerex) at least twice a year to maintain deep green color. If using a supplement, avoid planting near regularly watered lawns.
Landscape architect: Greg Trutza, New Directions in Landscape Architecture Inc., Phoenix, gregtrutza.com.