July 2006

Cytisus battandieri

An Award of Merit was given to Cytisus battandieri nine years after its introduction, about 1922, from Morocco. This must be one of the fastest high awards for any shrub and shows the garden-worthiness and its high value in cultivation. It has been a very popular flowering shrub ever since and has proved to be quite hardy, for it survived the severe winter of 1962/63 unscathed. Cytisus battandieri has proved to be very hardy in the south of Britain even as a free standing shrub. However it is best grown against a sunny wall in the East of Scotland. It is named after the French botanist, Jules Aime Battandier (1848-1922) who was a specialist in Algerian plants.

Text by Bob Mitchell

Cytisus battandieri is a tall, semi-deciduous shrub, upright in habit to 15' (3 m), with straggly branches. It has prominent silvery-grey, trifoliate, laburnum-like leaves which in a severe winter becomes fully deciduous. The flowers are held erect and curve upwards. They are golden-yellow in tight, terminal, cone-shaped racemes and smell of pineapple. Cytisus battandieri flowers for a long period during the summer but mainly in July.
Due to these prominent silvery leaves, it was suggested, in Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles in 1960, that it should be called Argyrocytisus. This name appears in the New RHS Dictionary of Gardening in 1992. As already mentioned Cytisus battandieri gained an Award of Merit in 1931. This was followed by a First Class Certificate in 1934 and the Award of Garden Merit in 1984. It featured in Curtis' Botanical Magazine t.8528 in 1938/1939

Cytisus battandieri comes from the middle Atlas Mountains where it grows in oak and cedar forests at heights of 5000 to 6000' (1500 - 2000 m) and grows in a well drained sandy soil. In cultivation it grows best in a light soil in full sun. It can thrive on poorer soils too. However the plant needs a system of regular renewal pruning to keep the growth robust, otherwise it tends to sulk. New growth appears readily from the base and, as in so many cases, flowers more freely on the older wood.

This is mainly by seed which should be soaked overnight, or the seed coat should be scarified, before sowing, then placed in a warm situation. Growth is generally fast and it should flower about three years from seed. Cuttings are difficult to root. For those who cannot wait that long, it is widely available from specialist nurseries.

There are two plants in the Garden. The better one is to the north-east of the Glass Class in the Decorative Glasshouse border. The other is to the left of the West Corridor door. This plant is in need of some of the renewal pruning as mentioned above. H7 (click for location map)