TWICE AS NICE

Country Style - - GARDEN -

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. >

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