Get planting for National Tree Week

Phyl Boyce


Phyl Boyce

Get planting for National Tree Week

This strawberry tree was named because its fruits look a lot like the real thing, yet while edible, are not very tasty

THE Tree Council of Ireland are celebrating National Tree Week from the March 6-13. Each year they pick a new theme, this year they have picked the arbutus or strawberry tree.

Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) is a slow growing evergreen tree that responds well to pruning. It likes a well-drained dry soil. It produces clusters of tiny, white or slightly pink flowers in late autumn. The fruits take 12 months to develop so the tree carries both flowers and mature fruit at the same time. The fruit is edible, but as the Latin name unedo (eat only once) implies it is not very palatable. It is a tree widely grown in the Killarney area where its wood was widely used to inlay furniture. It is a small tree that will not grow more than 30 feet tall.

Whatever the size of your garden, make sure that you include at least one tree, preferably more. A tree will bring structure, height and texture to any space, even in the depths of winter. Chosen carefully, a tree will have something good to offer for more than one season, perhaps a combination of pretty flowers in spring and good autumn colour. There are many trees available that will add to a small garden and offer many years of pleasure.

Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) are available in a wide range of different leaf shapes and colours. They all look great but need a sheltered site and many of them produce fantastic autumn colours.

Magnolia stellata is a small magnolia growing very slowly to a rounded bush, 10 feet tall, when mature. This magnolia produces pure white, star shaped flowers, slightly perfumed, in spring, before the leaves appear, eventually covering a mature plant for several weeks with white flowers. Frost can damage the open flowers if they are exposed to morning sunshine. A position with early shade in the morning and sun later in the day is the ideal position for this plant. After the flower the plant is covered with an oval shaped green leaf that turns yellow in the autumn. This magnolia will tolerate some lime in the soil.

Embothrium coccineum (Chilean fire bush) is a small tree that grows to about 20 feet tall. The tree is evergreen and is covered with orange-red to scarlet tubular flowers in late spring and early summer. The flowering period is brief but spectacular. The plant likes a fertile, deep, humus-rich soil that is neutral to acid.

Crinodendron hookerianum is another small tree from Chile. The tree is evergreen with bell or lantern-shaped flowers in May and June. The plant likes a fertile, moist but well-drained, humus rich acid soil in full sun or partial shade. Shelter the plant from cold, drying winds. Young growth and flower buds can be damaged by hard frost. The plant can be pruned after flowering to remove dead or damaged growth. There are only two species of crinodendron, crinodendron hookerianum produces red flowers while crinodendron patagua produces white flowers in late summer and prefers drier conditions.

Ilex (Holly) is one of our most beautiful native trees, with its waxy, variably shaped leaves offering year-round colour and interest. The flowers are insignificant and are followed by bright red berries on the female plants in winter. A male plant must be present in the garden or nearby to produce berries. Variegated hollies need full sun to produce the best leaf colour. Free-standing specimens can be pruned to shape, start the pruning in the early years after planting. There are a number of varieties to choose from.

Buy a tree with a good strong leading shoot, a tree with more than one leader should be ignored as it will not grow to form a good trunk and head. Give your tree a good start in life by digging a wide hole, two to three times as wide as the diameter of the pot it is growing in. Mix well-rotted manure or garden compost into the soil. Plant the tree at the same level as the pot it is growing in, planting too deeply may cause the tree to die. In its first few years keep the tree well watered and weed free around its base.

Garden Club Notices

The Limerick Flower and Garden Club will host their monthly event in the Greenhills Hotel on the Ennin road on Tuesday 8th March starting at 20:00.