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Posts Tagged ‘broadleaved evergreen’

When I was working at Park & Tilford  Gardens during my practicum I worked rotations in all parts of the gardens there. Each section had different challenges and things to learn. Everyday we would have to start with the rotine things like skimming the pool for leaves or deadheading the roses, one day as I cleaned in the display garden I smelled the most wonderful perfume coming from a plant. Being curious I had to find out where the scent was coming from and to my surprise it came from a huge white rhododendron. I asked about this plant and found out it was one of the famous Loderi Rhododendrons‘, ‘Loders White’which I have not seen since that time. Here in Victoria I have discovered several more all with the same delicious scent.

Rhododendron x 'Loderi Venus' has the most sumptuous of coloring in the Loderi group.

Rhododendron x 'Loderi Venus' has the most sumptuous of coloring in the Loderi group.

‘Loderi’ Rhododendron where developed by Sir Edmund Loder (1849-1920) who bought Leonardslee Estate(St. Leonard’s forest) in 1889 from his wifes family.  Sir Edmund then started to plant the estate with a collection of plants which included everything from vegetables and fruit for household use  as well as trees and shrubs. It is here that he did his crossing of two well known species of Rhododendron to produce what we know as Loder Rhododendrons.

Rhododendron 'King George' is considered to be the best of the 'Loder' Rhododendrons.

Rhododendron 'King George' is considered to be the best of the 'Loder' Rhododendrons.

‘Loderi’ Rhododendrons were developed by crossing the pollen(male)of species griffithianum with fortunei (female). The species ‘griffithianum which is very tender contributed the extremely large flowers and often the beautiful bark, and the ‘fortunei’ added its scent, hardiness and more vigorous growth. Both of these species had already been used a great deal for hybridizing as they were some of the first to be brought to Europe.

The species 'fortunei' contributed color, fragrance, vigor and cold hardiness to Loderi Rhododendrons.

The species 'fortunei' contributed color, fragrance, vigor and cold hardiness to Loderi Rhododendrons.

From the original crosses made in 1901 a number of selections of ‘Loderi’ Rhododendrons were made and named. All of the plants are extremely large growing and obtain tree-like size.  Colors range from pure white through creamy shades into a mid pink. All have been award numerous medals in the garden world including Awards of Merit(AM), First Class Certificates(FCC) and Awards of Garden Merit(AGM) which all come from the Royal Horticultal Society(RHS).  Here in Victoria there are several places to view these plant  with the best being Finnerty Gardens. Also look in the Novitiate Garden at St. Ann’s Academy and Glendale Gardens for other forms.

The attractive 'Loderi' bark is seen here in the collection at Finnerty Gardens.

The attractive 'Loderi' bark is seen here in the collection at Finnerty Gardens.

‘Loderi’ Rhododendrons are big plants with some attaining over 10m(30ft) with time, they are also as wide. You will need a large space which is not near a building for them to grow their best. Here they can be grown in almost full sun with no damage seen, in other areas where light is stronger a woodland setting would be more appropriate. Rhododendrons likes acidic soils which are slightly damp as they have shallow roots. Mulching every year is also a good idea. Loderi Rhododendrons are rated as tolerating -15c(5f) at the extreme. Propagation is by cuttings which are slow to produce.

Every year People come to Finnerty Garden to photograph the beautiful 'Miss Josephine Firth', a massive Loderi Rhododendron.

Every year People come to Finnerty Garden to photograph the beautiful 'Miss Josephine Firth', a massive Loderi Rhododendron.

The flowers of Rhododendron 'Miss Josephine Firth' fade to almost white as they age.

The flowers of Rhododendron 'Miss Josephine Firth' fade to almost white as they age.

Notes to Look at:

History of Leonardsee and Loders’ Nursery:http://www.leonardsleenursery.com/history

Rhododendron fortunei:http://www.rosebay.org/chapterweb/specfort.htm

Rhododendron griffithianum: http://www.rhododendron.org/descriptionS_taxon.asp?ID=17

Until we meet again along the garden path….

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Many parking lots and other institutions have parking lots and landscaping which is populated by tough hardy and often broadleaved evergreen plants. These plants have to be attractive and durable and tolerate being neglected. Many of these plants are just green and a background with no real features. A select few are standouts and should be seen in other settings more often. Viburnum tinus (Laurustinus) is a great plant which is attractive and versatile in many ways.

Viburnum tinus

Viburnum tinus(Laurustinus) is used as an informal hedge outside this fence.

Viburnum tinus has been in cultivation for a long time. This is probably do to the fact that is comes from the Mediterranean, an area which is one of the first areas where gardens were developed for pleasure. We do know that it was brought to Great Britain at least 500 years ago and many old plants are found there. It’s evergreen nature and sweet scented flowers which bloom late in the year probably attracted attention to it for use as a decorative plant.

Laurustinus

During the winter Laurustinus is a great show which it's many heads of rosey buds waiting to open.

The common name Laurustinus is thought to refer to the leaves which resemble those of the Bay Tree(Laurus nobilis). The Latin name Viburnum refers to this genus of plant but is thought not to refer to this particular species. the Latin meaning of ‘tinus’ is said to be the true ‘ancient’ name of this plant. It seems to me that Laurustinus is best described as a ‘Bay-leaved Viburnum’.

Viburnum tinus flowers

Although the flowers of Viburnum tinus are small, they are highly fragrant.

Viburnums are from the Carpifoliaceae family which includes many fragrant plants such as Honeysuckles, Beautybush and Twinflower. Laurustinus has a spicy sweet floral scent when in bloom. Other people say that it can have an unpleasant scent which may come from the leaves when they are growing early in the year. I know that the wild Viburnum which grows around here gives off an acidic scent in the fall when it sheds its leaves, it is a scent that I associate with autumn and look forward to experiencing every year. Scent is such a personal thing, one persons perfume is anothers most hated smell!

Laurustinus fruit

Often you will see Viburnum tinus blooming when there still are fruit on the bush.

Viburnum tinus have attractive drupes(fruit) which have a metallic steely blue black color, they are more sporadic and often do not develop well. The fruit of this species is not known to be edible and are said to cause stomach upset, this probably is do to the high acid content. The glossy smooth edged leaves, attractive berries and fragrant but delicate flowers make this a showy plant all year round. the added bonus is Laurustinus is easy to grow too.

The glossy leaves and red tints of the flower buds make Laurustinus attractive in the winter.

Growing Laurustinus is easy. They need well drained soil which is fertile and on the gritty side as they do not like overly wet roots. They do the best in a sunny location for the best flowering. They also tolerate dappled or shaded sites as well. they also are tolerant of ocean exposure and more chalky sites. They can grow to between 2 and 4.5m(6- 15ft)  in height and width depending on the variety you choose. This is a densely leaved plant which is excellent mass planting, informal hedges, winter gardens, shrub borders or containers. It is best to prune it for shape after it has finished blooming. There are several named forms which are more compact and one which is variegated, but is less cold tolerant. These plants are rated for zones 7 though9 (-10c or 10f).

More about Laurustinus:

Paghat’s post: http://www.paghat.com/viburnumtinus.html

Plants for a Future have some interesting notes: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Viburnum+tinus

Oregon State University page:http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/viti-i.htm

*****Next Week I will be moving and will not be posting, I hope to post on the following Sunday Febuary 7th.  See you in 2 weeks!*****

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At this time of the year I sneak  outside between rain storms  and check out my favorite gardens to see how the plants are getting along. It is a difficult time of year, often so wet and warm. many plants are weighed down by the rain and some become almost flattened by the weight of the water hanging on branches and stems. Large flowers can become discolored and droop badly. A genus of plants which is often overlooked until this time of year are Sweet Box or Saracocca which put on a fragrant bright show every year.

Sweet Box also known as Sarcocca

A lovely, healthy Sweet Box (Sarcococca humilis) hedge used as an edging at Finnerty Gardens.

Sweet Box are from east and south east Asia and ranging through China into the Himalyan Mountains. The first type was brought to Europe in 1901 was Sarococca ruscifolia. It is native to western Hubei, Sichuan and Yunnan where it grows on shady shady cliffs which are often  made of Limestone.  This species was originally discovered and collected by Augustine Henry in 1887.  Another species from the same area is S. humilis which is smaller and more refined in it’s growth.  S. hookeriana is the species found the farthest west and is found in the Himalayans and into Nepal, forms of it are found growing with the others in China.  It is unknown exactly where S. confusa originates, but one can guest it was near the others.

Sarcococca flowers.

Sarcococca are commonly called Sweet Box because of the wonderful fragrance of their small flowers.

One often does not notice Sarcococca until one day you walk by one which is in bloom and the fragrance attracts your attention. The scent is quite potent and fills areas especially on the occasional warm day at this time of the year.  These plants have powerful alkaloids and other constituents which make them less attractive to insects, disease and fungus which attack other genus. The powerful chemicals are recognized in Asian medicines and extracts are used in topical medications as well as in tonics.  The name of the extract sold by Chinese herbalists is ‘Qing Xiang  Gui’.

The drupes of Sarcococca are large compared to the flowers and add a colorful addition to the plant.

The drupes of Sarcococca are large compared to the flowers and add a colorful addition to the plant.

Sweet Box are an easy adaptable plant which is underused. It has attractive smaller foliage which is pleasingly elliptical and glossy green. Species such as ruscifolia, confusa and hookeriana can be used as low hedging which grows to 4ft(1.2m) and can easily be clipped and shaped.  S. humilis and it’s forms are lower growing and more suckering, it can be used as a low groundcover or mass planted. They are also an essential addition to any winter garden. All Sarcococca tolerate shade to deep shade (if you are willing to forgo the flowering) and make excellent understory plants.

Sarcococca humilis

The low growing Sarcococca humilis is planted behind the sign here in Finnerty Gardens

Growing Sweet Box is easy as they are not fussy plants and have no real pests or disease to deal with.  as they are woodland plants they like rich humusy soil which will retain some moisture sureing the drier seasons. They tolerate some lime better than many other species.  Placement is best where they get some morning sun but none later in the day as they will  yellow and burn in the summer. Dappled light is an excellent situation for them. They are classed as slow growing shrubs so they will not outgrow a space quickly.

The winter garden at Government House has a large Sarcococca in bloom right now.

Sarcococca are rated at zones 7 -9(-15c or 0-10f). S. rucifolia, confusa and hookeriana grow 1.2m(4ft) by the same. S. humilis and it’s forms are generally no more than 1m(3ft) and some forms grow only half that height.

Sweet Box links:

very detailed article about Sweet Box: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/2732/

Paghat’s Garden article on S. ruscifolia: http://www.paghat.com/saracococca.html

Finnerty Gardens: http://external.uvic.ca/gardens/

Until we meet again soon…..

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Sometimes a plant will bloom out of season, it might be that there is an unexpected warm spell which causes the buds to open. Other times blooming may be irregular and over a long time with no real pinnacle of flowering. Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ is often a combination of sporadic blooming in December and then breaking out in a frosty shimmery pink through mid to late January. This year the shimmering icy pink blossoms are making their appearance a little early.

Rhododendron Christmas Chee

The light pink blossoms of Rhododendron Christmas Cheer do look beautiful when the sun comes out here.

I alway notice a few blooms when I am in Sidney in late December and this helps me remember the name of the plant. The name ‘Christmas Cheer’ interestingly  refers to it’s one time use for forcing at Christmas time in bouquets and other indoor decoration during the Victorian era.

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ is a hybrid of unknown age although it is thought to originate in the 1830s’. It parentage is also partly unknown as well. What is known is that R. causaicum is one parent and was introduced into cultivation in 1803.  Rhododendron causaicum is a plant which comes from Caucasus in north eastern Turkey and  the surrounding area. It is a plant that has long been in cultivation and has been used extensively in development of old and new hybrids. One plant which may be considered a twin to ‘Christmas Cheer’ is R. ‘Rosa Mundi’ which is said to be slightly more compact and bloom one week later.

Rhododendron 'Rosa Mundi'

It seems to me that Rhododendron 'Rosa Mundi' blossoms are paler and more frilly.

R. ‘Christmas Cheer’ is restrained in all it’s parts. The leaves are mid green and have a pleasing narrow elliptical shape . the plant itself is densely branched so there are generally no unsightly gaps to see through. The flowers are delicate in color and size with slightly wavy edges. They are not in the least damaged by frosts and seem to stand up well to the monsoon rains by drooping or discoloring.

Rhododendron Christmas Cheer

This Rhododendron Christmas Cheer is covered with icy pink trusses of delicate flowers.

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ and ‘Rosa Mundi’ are some of the hardiest Rhododendrons. they are tolerant of temperatures as low as -20c(-10f) so these are good plants for colder areas in which Rhododendrons can be grown. As with all broadleaved evergreens location is important to bright the best out in your plant.  They appreciate being protected from cold drying winds that can occur during winter months. They like to be located in part to full shade. They are said to be more drought tolerant than other Rhodies’ and that may explain why some are located in more water challenged positions than others. They like rich well drained soil which has extra compost added to retain moisture during the dry summer months.

'Christmas Cheer' Rhododendrons

A couple of large and leggy 'Christmas Cheer' Rhododendrons found at Government House.

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ and ‘Rosa Mundi’ are fairly common here, you will often see them in parks here.They are popular being that they are slow growing and generally attain only 1.2m(4ft) in 10 years which makes them suitable for smaller gardens and yards. At maximum they will grow to 2m(6ft) high and wide. They work nicely in shady shrub or perennial borders at a mid depth. They also are included as a winter feature or specimen. They light up areas in these dark days which does bring cheer to us all.

Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer'

Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer' should be seen in more gardens.

More about ‘Christmas Cheer’ Rhododendrons and their relatives:

American Rhododendron Society page: http://www.rhododendron.org/descriptionH_new.asp?ID=455

Description of Rosa Mundi (Rosamundi) Rhododendron: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/rhros.htm

Rhododendron caucasicum:  http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=120&taxon_id=242442794

Until we meet again later…

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Where I grew up is now deep in snow, winter truly has arrived. My brothers who live in the area that I grew up will be out finding a tree at the lake to be decorated for Christmas.  Often when I was little one of the excitements was getting the big box of gifts from Grandma who lived in Surrey, it would be sent up on the bus.  Along with the gifts, she always sent homemade cookies, fruitcake and some of the wonderful Holly which grew at their place. The Holly(Ilex aquifolium) was for my mother as it did not grow in such a cold place as Prince George.

Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata'

Many forms of Holly have been collected, one of the most attractive is Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata'

Holly has been with us a long time. the Romans used to send boughs of Holly with gifts to their friends for the Saturnalia Festival, which was the most popular of all. Holly was the sacred plant of Saturn. Saturnalia Festival was celebrated from  December 17th to the 23rd and commemorated the dedication of the Temple of Saturn to the the God of the same name. The festival popularity was do to it’s good hearted nature where much jesting and pranks were pulled. Another feature of the festival was the role reversal of masters and slaves.

Ilex 'Balearica'

Ilex 'Balearica' is an unusual form of Holly which has no spines.

From the Saturnalia Festival the Christians where thought to have adopted Holly. it is believed the used the Holly to avoid ill treatment and religious prosecution.  Holly being a common Northern European plant already was an important Pagan plant which was used by the Druids to adorn their heads. It was believed the plant had magical qualities and drove away evil spirits. Holly is now used to symbolize  the crown of thorns Jesus wore with the berries representing his blood.

Ilex 'Wilsonii'

Ilex 'Wilsonii' is a female which has very wide leaves of a Holly plant.

It is interesting that ‘Ilex’ it’s Latin name refers to another plant all together; the Holm Oak – Quercus ilex.  Pliny refers to Holly as ‘Aquifolius’ which is it’s classic Latin name and where our newer ‘aquifolium’ comes from. Pliny said that if it was planted near a home it would repel poison(which is strange because the berries are) and protect the  house from lightening and witchcraft. He also said that the flowers would cause water to freeze.

Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea'

This fierce looking Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea' is male and has pricles on the tops of it's leaves.

There are many Hollies now which have been collected as sports or crosses with other simalar species which most commonly include latifolia and or perado var. platyphylla. There are other species also which are attractive garden specimens and may be seen in Ilex species collections. A good collection of Hollies near me is located at Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich, at one time this collection was one of the best in North America.

Ilex perneyi

Ilex perneyi is an unusual species with attractive small leaves.

The first Holly was brought to Vancouver Island in 1851 by Joseph Despard Pemberton. At one time this area was an important Holly harvesting area because the plant grows so well here. Over time the industry has died out do to the extremely valuable land it is on and problems such as leaf miners and twig blight damaging the crops.

Ilex altaclerensis 'Golden King'

Ilex altaclerensis 'Golden King' is a bright form which has a habit of reverting to green.

Ilex aquifolium is interesting in that it has(monoecious) male and female plants, this is easily discerned by the presence of  brightly colored berries on the female plants. Holly is native in Western to Southern Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. it has spread by seed and has become a problem in other areas where it is considered invasive. Here we find it in woodlands where it becomes a prickly problem and is removed along with other pest species of plants. One must take this into to consideration when selecting a plant.

Ilex aquifolium 'Aurea Marginata'

A pair of large specimen Ilex aquifolium 'Aurea Marginata'(male) flank the formal staricase at St Ann's Academy in Victoria.

Hollies are easy to grow and are undemanding. It prefers slightly acidic soil which is well drained yet nutrient rich, a yearly mulch is much appreciated. These are plants which can take shade or sun very well. Pruning can be done at anytime and they have traditionally been used for topiary. Holly can be used many ways depending on the type you are growing, the more plain types make excellent hedges and shrubs in a border. The more attractive leaf forms are often used as specimens.  Old leaves dry and become very prickly so this is not a good plant for lawns or areas where people want to kick off their shoes or with small children.

Ilex  'Golden Milkboy'

Ilex 'Golden Milkboy' is another bright male plant.

Holly grows to 50 ft(15.5m) tall by15ft(4.5m) wide. It is rated as zones 6 (-10f or -12c) and above. Place your Holly so it does not get damaging dry North winds during the winter.

More about Holly:

Growing Holly: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/trees-new/ilex_aquifolium.html

Saturnalia Festival:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia

Dominion Brook Park: http://www.northsaanich.ca/Municipal_Hall/Departments/Parks_and_Trails/Parks_Information/Municipal_Parks.htm

Until we meet again later….

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During the winter we always experience  the several weeks of unusually bad weather, I always like to check on how plants had made it through.  This is one way I evaluate if a plant is a good selection to grow int the Victoria area.  Some plants do better than others in cold weather while others clearly are not really hardy here. Hydrangeas all look bedraggled and brown as do many of the semi-deciduous plants. Lots of cutting back will be needed in the spring when it starts to warm up again. One plant that doesn’t suffer one bit is Common Box (Buxus sempervirens)  and it  is used extensively here.

Buxus sempervirens

Buxus sempervirens or Boxwood is used extensively at St Ann's Academy in Victoria.

Common Box or Boxwood has been with us for a very long time, in fact its first recorded use was during the Egyptian era around 4000 BC where they had clipped hedges of it. Ever since that time it has reappeared throughout history. On a side note it was used by the Romans for their gardens, and believe it or not, they had special slaves called Toparius (creators of topia or landscapes) who maintained their specially clipped bushes. Here in Victoria Boxwood is mostly used for edging and to give a more formal feeling to a garden design.

Buxus sempervirens 'Elegantissima'

A wonderfully round Variegated Box is incorporated into the Heather Garden at Glendale Gardens.

Speaking of topiary, the craze really got going in renaissance Italy. In their warmer climate they used Cypress which proved not hardy enough for northern Europe, box became the obvious choice being evergreen and being finely textured which is needed for creating topiary forms. This is how Common Box became so associated with English and particularly French gardens. Levens Hall in Cumbria and Chateau de Villandry are two famous examples. More recently a Boxwood (look-a-like) was on display in the movie ‘Edward Scissorhands’ in which Edward created fantastic forms with his ‘scissorhands’ and became a celebrity.

Tree form of Buxus sempervirens

This remarkable Boxwood specimen is found at St Andrew's Cathedral along View St. in downtown Victoria.

Boxwood is slow growing with finely textured foliage but in its native habit it can grow into a large shrub or small tree of 10ft with a width of 4 to 6ft.  Because of its slow growth, it should be planted for a couple of years before being clipped for the first time. Cutting back will encourage a more bushy, dense growth. Hedges and topiary, when mature, are usually cut twice a year, It is done once around May and then later near the end of August or early September.

Buxus sempervirens is used as a hedge

A more typical use of Buxus sempervirens is as a hedge.

Boxwood is a very versatile shrub that tolerates very low light to full sun and continues to look healthy and bushy. It is very adaptable to most soils and can withstand a fair amount of drought, but prefers rich well drained soil. It is one of the few plants which will tolerate a more alkaline location. Common Box is rated at at zone 6 (-10f to 0 . or to -18c). In cool weather it often takes on an attractive bronzy coloring which disappears when warm weather returns.

Buxus sempervirens in containers.

These Boxwood are used as a decorative feature outside a restaurant in Victoria.

Buxus sempervirens is the most common box and has numerous cultivars such as ‘Elegantissima’ which has leaves edged in cream. Another popular form is ‘Suffruticosa’ that is slower growing and is most suitable used for parterres and small hedges. There is one other species worth mentioning. Buxus microphylla which is exactly the same as Common Box is smaller in all ways and generally needs no clipping. Several forms of it are popular in rock gardens or for very short edging. ‘Compacta’ and ‘Green Pillow’ are the most popular for rock gardens and for very low edging. A variety known as var. koreana is particularly popular with bonsai enthusiasts who choose it for its narrower leaves and loose spreading habit. It is also the most hardy.

Buxus sempervirens 'Elegantissima'

Buxus sempervirens 'Elegantissima' will make a slow growing and attractive edging.

Care must be taken in placement of Common Box near roadways which may be given a salt treatment  during cold periods. Buxus sempervirens is very easily damaged from too much salt and unsightly damage and even death of the plant can occur.

Salt damaged Buxus semperviren plants.

This is an example of extreme salt damage to a Boxwood hedge next to a parking lot in Victoria.

More about Boxing the Buxus:

The Wiki page is always a good place to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buxus_sempervirens

How to grow and maintain a Box hedge: http://www.boxtrees.com/hedging.html

Historic St Andrew’s Cathedral: http://www.standrewscathedral.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=45&Itemid=65

Until we meet again later….

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When I was in school I often learned one than one genus and from that point there can be many subspecies and hybrids. Often plants from a genus look very similar and other times do not. One genus we learned was Arbutus. Arbutus menziesii  is a tree and Arbutus unedo which is a shrub. Arbutus unedo or the Strawberry tree is a great shrub which is well adapted for use here it the Victoria area.

Arbutus unedo

An attractive Arbutus unedo at a driveway entrance.

Arbutus unedo come from the Mediterranean area and range from Turkey, Lebanon  through to western areas of France and Spain and Portugal. They are also found in south western Ireland and are believed to be pre-glaciation remnants of  the range where these plant originally lived. The area which Strawberry trees or more commonly bushes are found in the wild has drastically shrunk do to harvesting of the wood for manufacturing of charcoal.

A happy Arbutus unedo which is loaded with fruit.

Arbutus unedo or as they are known in Ireleand as Killarney Strawberry Trees are viewed as 4 season plants as they have beautiful evergreen foliage which looks good throughout the year, berries which are take a year to for and ripen and flowers which bloom late in the year when little else is.

Arbutus unedo blossoms

The small waxy blosoms of Arbutus unedo bloom from October through December here.

Right now there are still some flowers on many bushes and crops of fruit are coloring up in a most attractive way for the Christmas season. The shrub in the above picture is covered with fruit which suggests it is in a perfect location.  The fruit are actually aggregate drupes which have a pasty bland flavor. The fruit is now used to make jams, jellies and a strong Brandy type drink (Medronho) which is made in Portugal. Pliny the Elder felt that the fruit was not worth eating, he  wrote in 50 A.D. ‘unum edo’ – ‘I eat one’ which said to be where we get unedo. the name Arbutus is from their original Latin name.

Arbutus unedo fruit

The fruits of Arbutus unedo are brightly colored and unusual looking.

Arbutus are members of the Ericaceae family which tend to need acidic soil to grow their very best. Strawberry trees are and exception to this rule and tolerate limey soil very well and are found in France growing in sandy locations. Generally here Arbutus unedo are grown as shrubs, they can be trained as a tree which is achieved by removing the lower branches as they bud out. The bark is an attractive cinnamon color and is cracked and is said to come off in strips in larger trunks, I have not seen this.

Arbutus unedo bark

The attractive bark on this very large Arbutus unedo branch.

Although we usually see Arbutus unedo as shapely rounded shrubs, they can grow to be quite large. They grow  to 10.5m(33ft) tall by the same spread and can grow very large trunks.  In a perfect setting they have full exposure to sun and very well drained soil. They can also do very well in wetter climates as long as the soil is very well drained, they do not tolerate being in overly damps soil.  They are naturally adapted to dry summers and develop long taproots soon after they are established. The taproot mean you have to be careful about where you are planting this plant as they do not do well if they are moved later on.

These Arbutus unedo have been planted to form a hedge which can be infomal or formal with pruning.

Arbutus unedo are versatile and can be used as formal or informal  hedging, specimens or back ground shrubs. They are great in more neglected locations such as on driveways and areas which are not near water sources. The fruit will attract birds who will eat it.  There are few pests and diseases and these can be avoided with proper care of the plant. These plants are rated at zones 7 through 10 (0-10f or -7 to-12c).The leaves can be damaged by cold dry snaps such as what we had last winter, the plants I see around here where not damaged at all.  A Strawberry tree is seen on the city crest of Madrid Spain.

Arbutus unedo foliage.

The foliage of Arbutus unedo is clean and attractive.

There are several attractive forms which can be found in nurseries; ‘Elfin King’ is often sold as ‘Compacta’ and has white flowers and ‘Rubra’ is pink blooming.

More on Arbutus unedo:

Surprisingly I find Wiki a good source of information relating to plants: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strawberry_Tree

Great Plant Picks for the Northwest: http://www.greatplantpicks.org/display?id=2246

Paghat agrees with me: http://www.paghat.com/strawberrytree.html

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