Dis­cover the beauty of manuka trees

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - LANDSCAPING -

When I de­sign nat­u­ral na­tive gar­dens, whether in town or in the coun­try there are num­ber of plants that I just have to use.

These are typ­i­cally found in Marl­bor­ough but are not nec­es­sar­ily en­demic.

Over the next few weeks I will high­light a num­ber of my favourite na­tive gar­den plants and why.

I’ll start at the top with the trees.

The mag­nif­i­cent manuka (lep­tosper­mum sco­par­ium) or tea tree finds it evo­lu­tion­ary roots in Aus­tralia where it is part of lep­tosper­mum genus.

Our Manuka is ac­tu­ally the same species as the Aus­tralian tea tree but they take on many dif­fer­ent forms.

These days most peo­ple know the tea tree more for manuka honey and rightly so as it is this ex­pen­sive honey that is caus­ing a re­vival of the manuka tree.

Plan­ta­tions of manuka are now quite com­mon.

Manuka grow the length and breast of the coun­try but pre­fer slightly wet­ter con­di­tions than its cousin the kanuka (kun­zea eri­coides).

On the eastern di­vide where we have less than 650 mil­lime­tres of rain a year the manuka gives way in part or whole to kanuka. In Marl­bor­ough we have more kanuka than manuka.

Manuka grow well in ex­posed, wet or dry sites and are tol­er­ant of very poor soil.

This makes them an easy plant to grow in the gar­den.

They are of­ten con­sid­ered a pi­o­neer­ing species that will al­low other less tough plant species to be­come es­tab­lished un­der their canopy.

In the wild manuka of­ten form in dense stands as the seeds don’t fall far from the par­ent tree.

In dry areas the re­sult­ing tight canopy can limit ground plants to es­tab­lish.

Recre­at­ing a nat­u­ral look­ing stand of manuka in your gar­den would re­quire a gen­er­ous space of about 100 square me­ters.


They would need to be planted closely but ran­domly and al­lowed reg­u­lar deep drinks to keep the ground ready for ferns and ground cov­ers.

The manuka is an iconic New Zealand tree of­ten found on windswept crags and cliff tops.

The gnarly painful look­ing habit of manuka makes them un­usual and there­fore at­trac­tive.

The shaggy bark holds in­ter­est year-round and the flow­ers are very im­pres­sive in late De­cem­ber or early Jan­uary, de­pend­ing on the sea­son.

Manuka and kanuka do look very sim­i­lar but a sim­ple test of firmly rub­bing the fo­liage through your hands will re­veal which species it is. Manuka is mean and kanuka is kind to your skin.

They both have sim­i­lar prop­er­ties - both have a very dense wood, both are great for burn­ing and you can get re­ally good honey from both species.

I have smoked meats and fish with manuka but I am yet to try manuka tea.

If it was good enough for Cap­tain Cook its should be good enough for me.

In the mod­ern gar­den manuka is used pri­mar­ily for its very colour­ful show.

There are plenty of man-made cul­ti­vars with vi­brant colours that adorn many a bor­der.

These are of­ten smaller grow­ing than the orig­i­nal which can take the form of a low shrub or a grand tree up to 10 me­tres tall.

Manuka will be a great ad­di­tion to your gar­den and is a fan­tas­tic con­trast plant.

In the mod­ern gar­den manuka trees ares used pri­mar­ily for their very colour­ful show.

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