Beauty that bears fruit
THE extraordinary, almost startling beauty of a Japanese pear ( Nashifruit) in full blossom took me by surprise last week. The flowers, closely packed along all the branches, were a dazzling white. In early autumn we’ll get the additional reward of lots of delicious fruit. These small trees are fantastic value.
It’s a fact of life most of us tend to take the ornamental value of fruit and nut trees for granted.
We plant them out, dreaming of the tasty harvest we intend to be eating in two or three years’ time.
Yet in all parts of Tasmania over the last few weeks, most of us will have noticed the amazing displays of bloom produced by fairly common fruit trees.
Fruit trees are perfectly at home in an ornamental garden and make highly attractive lawn specimens.
Of course, many fruit trees are easily trained to grow flat against sunny fences or house walls. Most espaliers or fans are grafted on to dwarfing or semi- dwarfing stock so rarely grow taller than a couple of metres.
Those on fully dwarfing stock grow happily in large tubs on any sunny part of a veranda or patio.
Miniature peaches and nectarines produce superb displays of closely packed pink flowers, followed later by surprisingly large crops of fruit.
Among my favourite ornamental fruit trees are the quinces. All are compact enough to fit easily into most ornamental gardens. They are not only beautiful, they produce tasty rewards in late autumn.
In mid- spring, quince trees become festooned with amazing displays of large, pale pink flowers that look a bit like single blooms on old- fashioned weeping roses. Then in autumn, as the quince harvest matures the heavy fruit and branch tips turn gloriously golden.
These small, bushy trees rarely need pruning, are relatively drought- resistant, need little feeding, thrive in clay and live for decades.
Pear trees grow very large if neglected, becoming too big for most suburban gardens. However, when trained as fans or espaliered they can be kept very small. The flat shapes are achieved by pruning out every branch growing outwards or inwards. Those that are left grow sideways, allowing the flexible branches to be bent down and tied to wires or secured to a wall or fence.
During spring and summer branch tips kept pinched out or rubbed- off to slow down, redirect or completely stop inconvenient growth. Apart from shaping the trees, this combination of pulling branches down to horizontal positions and regular stopping reins- in excess vigour. Consequently, pear trees can be kept very small without significantly reducing fruit yields.
Probably the earliest flowering fruit plants are nut trees. Hazels become covered with glorious green- yellow catkins in the middle of winter, long before leaves appear and the display lasts for weeks.
Almonds are actually stone- fruit but we relish the nutty kernels. The blossoms are always a welcome sight as winter draws to an end.
During August, peach, nectarine and Japanese plum trees fill the air with colour and fragrance, and in mid- spring all European plums are covered with dense, snowy- white blossoms.
For decades our sweet bay ( Laurus nobilis) has flourished close to the house. These are very attractive evergreens that provide a nonstop supply of leaves for flavouring soups and casseroles.
These trees may occasionally need a heavy pruning. Ours grew so big it over- shadowed and stunted most nearby plants. Last year I got stuck into it with a chainsaw – cutting it off to leave just a short stump.
It has already sprouted new shoots, which I intend to keep well clipped.
Sweet bays also grow perfectly in tubs or can be trained to grow flat against walls or fences.
Sweet bays stand out in any garden, especially when masses of golden flowers come into full display in spring.
Fruit trees are a useful and attractive way to fill even small spaces in an ornamental garden. All they need is a place in the sun.