TWICE AS NICE
CHRISTINE REID SURVEYS THE FRUIT TREES THAT LOOK AS GOOD AS THEY TASTE.
rnamental and productive are the two key words when it comes to fruit trees — but the harvest tends to dominate conversation, while beauty gets mentioned as an afterthought. Of all the fruiting trees in the home garden, citrus are the most ornamental. The glossy foliage gives year-round enjoyment, the white f lowers are not only pretty but fragrant too, and the fruit glow like lanterns among the branches. Why have we relegated the citrus tree to the back garden? They are easily pruned to shape, can be planted together as a dense hedge or screen, live for 20 to 30 years and fruit just three years after planting. In Rome, orange trees are used as street plantings — bright orange balls amid the carefully-pruned evergreen foliage. Lest you think that citrus can grow only in a particular climate, there is plenty of evidence that choosing the right cultivar is the key to success. Growers will tell you that they’re extremely adaptable and you can grow citrus from Darwin to Tasmania, tolerating — with care — temperatures down as far as –4 degrees. Obviously, different species and varieties perform better and produce finer f lavoured fruit when grown in their preferred climate. The slowest-growing of all citrus are possibly the prettiest. Bright orange cumquats are a joy in winter, while in spring and summer they bring their delicious perfume to the garden — they can even be clipped into topiary shapes. And don’t forget the glorious marmalade waiting at season’s end! At the opposite end of the spectrum are the many deciduous trees that are a glorious ornament to spring gardens. Ornamental pears have become fashionable for boundary and street plantings in recent years. However, lovely as they are, they are only decoration while two of the most desirable fruit trees for any garden — large or small — are the quince and pomegranate, which let you have your beauty and eat it, too. The quince, Cydonia oblonga, has the most beautiful spring blossom — large, white blooms just touched with
Opink. The new foliage sits below the blossom, further highlighting the fresh new f lowers. Come autumn, as the clear yellow foliage falls, the remarkable fruit hangs on, voluptuously golden. They originated in central Asia, which is why they are so suited to our climate; they are tough, revelling in long, hot summers. A quince walk is one of the most glorious sights in a garden, whatever the season. The pomegranate, Punica granatum, is a beautiful shrubby tree with bright green leaves, orange-red f lowers, and fruit whose skin suggests a torrid sunset. It was never a major food crop but has been revered by many civilisations, often being associated with fertility. For Australian gardeners, pomegranates are as tough as they get: they love hot, dry summers. But they’ll grow in a wide range of climates, being evergreen in the tropics and becoming deciduous in southern states. Apples and pears have competed with each other for popularity over thousands and thousands of years. Pears are one of the most beautiful landscape trees in spring, but aren’t as drought-tolerant as apples. As pears f lower a month or so earlier than apples, the blossoms are vulnerable to frost damage. But if the harvest is a secondary consideration, don’t worry. With clouds of unsurpassed spring blossom, apple and pear trees allow themselves to be twisted into espaliered shapes, creating dividing walls or tunnels. So, whether you’re planting an orchard or a lone lemon, enjoy the fruit trees that reward the eye as well as the tastebuds. >