Discover the beauty of manuka trees
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.