Beauty that bears fruit

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Peter Cun­dall

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.

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