Grafton Nurs­ery grows hardy forms of An­tipodean Eu­ca­lyp­tus that are ideal for Bri­tish gar­dens


Gar­den­ers can be blink­ered, dis­re­gard­ing a whole genus be­cause of the faults of a few mem­bers. Eu­ca­lyp­tus has suf­fered this fate, largely be­cause of the thug­gish be­hav­iour of Eu­ca­lyp­tus gun­nii, the most widely avail­able species, which will grow to huge pro­por­tions in a very short time. “There are far bet­ter species,” says grower Hi­lary Collins. “Beau­ti­ful eu­ca­lypts for small ter­races or large pots, those for use as hedg­ing or as fo­liage for cut flow­ers, and those for gar­den­ers who want large trees. Even gun­nii is gor­geous if it is grown well.”

Hi­lary’s en­thu­si­asm for the genus is bound­less. “Very few trees are as fas­ci­nat­ing as these: they are highly evolved and ex­tremely var­ied. The young leaves are often very dif­fer­ent from the ma­ture ones. They are beau­ti­ful as well as use­ful,” she says. And they needn’t get out of hand: most Eu­ca­lyp­tus can be cop­piced (cut back close to the base) to en­cour­age new growth with ju­ve­nile fo­liage and to keep the tree com­pact.

Hi­lary set up Grafton Nurs­ery ten years ago in a cor­ner of a derelict seven-acre nurs­ery. “We are in year ten of what was in­tended to be a five-year project to get the nurs­ery up to scratch,” says Hi­lary. “I have read what­ever I can get my hands on and done a mas­sive amount of re­search about eu­ca­lypts.” This re­search has in­cluded hands-on projects in the nurs­ery to see how plants re­spond to dif­fer­ent sow­ing, grow­ing and prun­ing regimes.

The plants are grown in peat-free com­post in Air-Pots, a sys­tem orig­i­nally de­vel­oped in Aus­tralia specif­i­cally for Eu­ca­lyp­tus af­ter it was dis­cov­ered that tra­di­tional pot-grown trees had poor root sys­tems and would often fall over when ma­ture. The Air-Pots sys­tem pre­vents roots from spi­ralling around their con­tainer and is now used through­out the tree pro­duc­tion in­dus­try. Hi­lary rec­om­mends that Eu­ca­lyp­tus des­tined for pots be grown in an Air-Pot that is placed in­side an­other con­tainer of choice.

Like most grow­ers, Hi­lary’s favourite plant changes. She cur­rently favours Eu­ca­lyp­tus gun­nii Azura (= ‘Ca­gire’), a new dwarf hy­brid, com­pact and hardy with bright sil­very-blue fo­liage. Among the many tempt­ing forms on show, I spot­ted a multi-stemmed Eu­ca­lyp­tus pau­cif lora subsp. de­beuzevillei, which has mar­bled grey-and-white bark and large, leath­ery, grey-green leaves.

Many eu­ca­lypts look ex­otic, other-worldly even, but wan­der­ing round the nurs­ery I was struck by how many would sit com­fort­ably in the Bri­tish land­scape. A screen of E. ky­bea­nen­sis could be mis­taken for an at­trac­tive wil­low, with red­dish leaf stems and tight clus­ters of feath­ery, white f low­ers. It is hardy to -16°C and will grow al­most any­where, even on poor, stony soil.

If you’re new to Eu­ca­lyp­tus, help is at hand: the nurs­ery pro­duces a chart de­tail­ing plant char­ac­ter­is­tics and grow­ing con­di­tions to help gar­den­ers make the right choice for their gar­den. As Hi­lary con­fi­dently de­clares: “What­ever your re­quire­ment, there is a Eu­ca­lyp­tus for you.”

USE­FUL IN­FOR­MA­TION Ad­dress Grafton Nurs­ery, Grafton Fly­ford, Worces­ter­shire WR7 4PW. Tel 01905 888098 (an­swer­phone)/07515 261511. Web­site hardy-eu­ca­lyp­ Open By ap­point­ment only. Please tele­phone to ar­range.



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