02 Sep

Small and Beautiful Shrubby Tree for Gardens: Halleria

Halleria is a small genus of shrubs and small trees grown for their attractive foliage and flowers. The genus is native to Madagascar and tropical climates of Africa. The most popular shrub from this genus is Halleria lucida – a small shrubby tree with pendulous branches and glossy foliage.

Halleria lucida is grown as evergreen ornamental and drought tolerant tree. The tree does not usually require much space and thus makes a good choice for small gardens where it can be pruned and trained in to a smart tree. Gown up plants can be used to create shady canopies.

Halleria shrub

Halleria ligustrifolia, Image by Leonora Enking

Halleria lucida grows up to 2.5 meters tall and spreads across 1.5 meters. Though it is a drought tolerant plant, Halleria lucida responds well to regular watering and shows vigorous growth when provided with sufficient watering and fertilizer. Halleria lucida can be grown under sunny or partially shady spots in gardens.

Leaves of Halleria lucida are small and glossy that turn purple in winter and provide beautiful contrast to red tubular flowers. Flowers are followed by formation of sweet berries that attract a lot of birds to the garden.

Another popular plant for the genus if Halleria elliptica. Commonly known as Wild fuschia, Halleria elliptica grows as shrubby tree (up to 2.5 meters) and produces orange-red flower in autumn.

06 Aug

Olinia ventosa, the Hard Pear Tree

Olinia ventosa or Hard Pear is a graceful tree with glossy green leaves and tiny white flowers. Native to South Africa, Olinia ventosa grows as a tall and evergreen forest tree. However, when grown in gardens it matures into a small tree.

Olinia ventosa

Olinia ventosa, the Hard Pear tree

Olinia ventosa is a good choice for landscapes and gardens for its decent foliage, fragrant flowers, and shady canopy. The tree is quite hardy and tolerates drought and neglect. Flowers, though insignificant, bloom profusely in spring and emit almonds-like fragrance. Clusters of tiny white flowers attract birds butterflies that visit the tree for its fruit and nectar.

Besides its horticultural use, Olinia ventosa is a good source of quality timber which is used in manufacturing of fine furniture.

Olinia ventosa prefers regular soil mix but can survive poor soil conditions as well. Propagation can be done from seeds. Young plants grow slowly but once established, Olinia ventosa grows rapidly and forms vigorous roots and branch system.

23 Jul

Magnolia grandiflora, Lovely Flowering Tree for Warm Climates

Magnolia is a large genus of deciduous and evergreen trees that are popular for their beautiful and scented flowers. This is also one of the longest surviving trees on the planet dating back to about 95 million years ago, that is why mention of Magnolia is found in ancient as well as modern culture and literature. Long before it was introduced in horticulture, Magnolia has been used in China and Japan in traditional medicine.

The genus primarily belongs to Southeast Asia but grows natively in many parts of the world including the Americas and West Indies.

Magnolia Tree

Magnolia Tree, Image by serenithyme(flickr)

Today, Magnolia is popular among horticulturists and gardeners as an excellent flowering tree. The waxy flowers are known for their beautiful shape and colors and intoxicating fragrance. That is why, it has also been extensively hybridized to produce various new varieties with a broad range of colorful flowers. The most popular and widely cultivated species is Magnolia grandiflora which is an evergreen species with large leathery leaves and magnificent flowers. The plant can grow up to 6 meters in cultivation and as tall as 30 meters in wild. The foliage and flowers vary greatly according to the growing conditions. The size of leaves, flowers and the tree itself depends on the conditions of light, water and soil.

Popular Varieties of Magnolia grandiflora

A number of popular cultivars of Magnolia grandiflora are also commercially available. These include:

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Goliath’ – Nice flowering tree with bushy growth and extended flowering season.

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouth’ – Fast growing tree with green, leathery leaves. Flowers are large and strongly scented.

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ – A dwarf and slow growing cultivar with a columnar shape which reaches around 4.25 m, prolonged flowering cycle in warmer climate.

Generally, Magnolias prefer fertile and slightly acidic soil, plenty of water and good exposure to sunlight. Young plants of Magnolia need protection from strong winds.

23 May

Brownea coccinea, the Rose of Venezuela

Brownea is a genus of flowering trees and shrubs from tropical climates of Africa and Asia. Belonging to the bean family, the plants in this genus feature rich and showy flowers, ornamental foliage and quick growing habit. Most plants in this genus prefer sunny exposure and moist soil for healthy growth.

The most popular plant from this genus of lovely bloomers is Brownea coccinea. It is an evergreen plant that grows into a small spreading tree and produces nice foliage. It prefers warm and a little humid climate to grow though it is capable of surviving brief spells of drought and dry conditions. Grown from seeds or cuttings, Brownea coccinea produces drooping branches, fresh-green leaves and clusters of showy, red flowers in spring. It is also known as Rose of Venezuela.

Brownea coccinea, the Rose of Venezulea

Brownea coccinea, the Rose of Venezulea

Another popular plant from this genus is Brownea grandiceps, which grows as a small evergreen tree and abundance of red flowers in early spring till mid-summer.

23 May

Evergreen, Tropical Shade Tree: Schinus, Pepper Tree

Schinus is a genus of ornamental trees and shrubs from tropical and subtropical climates, mainly from South America. Plants in this genus are known for their fine evergreen foliage, ability to survive drought and strong winds, and ornamental fruit.

Most species in the genus of Schinus grow into tall and shady trees which are rich in fresh-green foliage. These are quite fast growing plants (sometimes, invasive) and make excellent choice for gardens and landscapes where they can be grown for shade or breaking strong winds. One of the commonly grown plants from this genus is Schinus terebinthifolius that grows as a tall shrub and later turns into a hardy tree. It grows up to 6 meters as a self-seeding plant and produces ornamental pink berries after flowering season. The sap from its stem is fragrant and might cause irritation on skin. Schinus terebinthifolius is also known as Brazilian Pepper Tree.

Schinus molle

Schinus molle, Pepper Tree, Image by Petr Kosina

Another popular plant from this genus is Schinus molle which is usually descried as Pepper Tree because of peppery fragrance of its leaves. The plant grows up to 20 meters and provides a nice shady spot under its dense foliage. The red berries that are produced after flowering season and very attractive because of shiny red color and spicy fragrance.

Almos all species of Schinus are drought-tolerant and can be grown in a regular soil where they receive sufficient sunlight, moderate water and a rich but well-drained soil.

11 Apr

Evergreen Flowering Tree: Calpurnia aurea, The Wild Laburnum

Calpurnia is a small genus of shrubs and trees from the family of Fabaceae – which is the family of many popular genera of flowering trees like Cassia, Wisteria, Robinia and Mimosa. Like its cousins, Calpurnia is known for its prolific flowering habit and ornamental foliage. Among popular species of this genus, the most commonly found is Calpurnia aurea. It grows as a small evergreen tree which is perfectly suitable for small gardens or as hardy street tree.

Calpurnia aurea, Wild Laburnum Tree

Calpurnia aurea, Image by Tony Rodd

Calpurnia aurea is quite fast growing tree and starts flowering quite early. It can grow in almost any soil as far as it provides good drainage. It produces golden-yellow flowers that closely resemble the flowers of Laburnum, that is why Calpurnia aurea is commonly described as Wild Laburnum. It usually blooms in mid-summer and provides a long flowering season. Flowering is followed by fruition which is in the form of thin pods. These pods soon dry into dry and brownish texture. The tree is easy to prune and maintain and can be grown is a sunny or partially sunny spot. A healthy tree of Wild Laburnum can grow as tall as 12 feet.

Calpurnia aurea or Wild Laburnum is widely distributed across Pakistan, India, South Africa and parts of African continent. It is drought and frost tolerant and thus makes a good choice for gardens and landscapes.

28 Feb

Ornamental Garden Tree: Podocarpus Macrophyllus, Kusamaki

Podocarpus is a large genus of evergreen coniferous trees of small to medium height. They are popular garden trees is many parts of the world because of their fresh and fine looks. Besides popular garden trees, there are a number of bushes and foliage plants of Podocarpus that are useful for many different purposes in gardens. Some make nice hedges, some are good as foliage plants, some make nice espalier whereas some are good for creating screens or visual dividers.

Podocarpus Macrophyllus, Kusamaki, Garden Tree

Podocarpus Macrophyllus, Kusamaki

Podocarpus are usually propagated from seeds, softwood cuttings or layering. Young plants grow slow but grow into attractive specimens. They are usually easy to prune and train in to desired shapes and sizes. Popular species include Podocarpus falcatus (Yellowwood) that grows as nice garden tree up to 20 meters, and Podocarpus macrophyllus which is commonly known as Buddhist Pine (though it is not a pine) or Kusamaki in Japan.

Buddhist Pine is revered as feng shui tree and has a high commercial value. Native to China and Japan, Podocarpus macrophyllus grows as a large shrub or small evergreen tree with nice foliage. It is also grown for its timber which is used as construction material for its natural resistance to termites and water.

20 Feb

Sweet, Lovely and Ornamental: Persimmon Tree

Japanese Persimmon or sometimes called Kaki Persimmon is large deciduous tree from the family of Diospyros. It is a large genus of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs from tropical climates of Asia, some parts of Africa and major parts of Japan and China. Listed as Diospyros Kaki, this tropical tree has been in cultivation since many hundred years in China where it is largely grown for its edible fruit. In fact, more than 90 percent of its total production comes from China. Other species from the genus of Diospyros are also useful trees and are grown for their timber or as ornamental plants. The timber is collectively known as ebony.

Persimmon Tree

Diospyros Kaki, Persimmon Tree, Image via wikipedia.org

The sweet and slightly tangy fruit of Persimmon is quite attractive itself and makes this tree very ornamental. Pulp of ripe fruit is soft and jelly-like substance. Immature Persimmon is, however, has a bitter taste because of high amount of tannin acid. Creamy yellow flowers of Persimmon are inconspicuous.

Persimmon tree can be grown in sunny locations where it receives rich loamy soil and moderate watering. The tree is frost tender and sheds most of its leaves during the months of winter. A mature tree of Persimmon can grow up to 15 meters.

18 Feb

Jabuticaba, The Brazilian Grape Tree

Myrciaria Cauliflora is a beautiful and unusual tree from the family of Myrtaceae. Native to tropical climate of Brazil, the tree is commonly known as Jabuticaba and usually grown for its grape-like purple fruits. Though a bit slow growing, Jabuticaba makes a nice ornamental tree for small gardens.

Jabuticaba, The Grape Tree

Jabuticaba, The Grape Tree, Image by Roberto Antonio

From a horticulturist’s point of view, Jabuticaba is quite unusual tree because of its habit of producing flowers and fruits on its trunk. A healthy and well-kept tree would produce abundance of beautiful white flowers on its trunk. These flowers are followed by fruits that cover the entire trunk and branches of the tree.

Jabuticaba tree would grow as a medium sized tree (up to 6 or 7 meters tall). Small, salmon-green leaves of the tree emit a typical fragrance that attracts birds and bees. The fruit is spherical with sweet and soft pulp. However, it has a short shelf life and is usually consumed locally as ripe fruit or preserved as jam, jelly or liquor. Because of its grape-like fruit, Jabuticaba is also described as Brazilian Grape Tree.

Jabuticaba Flower

Jabuticaba Flower, Image by Cristiano Oliveira

Jabuticaba can be grown easily is a well-drained and preferably acidic soil. It requires moderate temperatures, regular watering and full sun to flourish well.

13 Feb

Cussonia – The Cabbage Tree of Africa

Cussonia is a genus of ornamental trees from South Africa and Madagascar. These drought tolerant trees make excellent accent plants with a crown of lovely green foliage. Most species of Cussonia grow as solitary trees forming a slender and twisted trunks crowned by long and glossy leaves. This unique growing habit gives these trees the name of ‘Cabbage Tree’.

Cussonia, The Cabbage Tree

Cussonia, The Cabbage Tree, Image by Louisa Billeter

Most species of Cussonia grow quickly and last long. Average height of Cabbage Tree can be 8 to 12 meters. Leaves are evergreen and are used as fodder. Small, stalked flowers appear in Spring or early Summer followed by fleshy fruits. Nectar produced by Cussonia trees attracts bees, wasps, birds and other pollinating insects.

Cabbage Tree is grows easily from seeds and does not require much care. Most species resist drought and prefer a sunny spot to grow. Protect them from frost and grow in a well-drained and slightly rich soil.

Popular species include:

Cussonia Spicata – Fast growing, evergreen tree that grows up to 10 meters and produces greenish flowers in summer.

Cussonia Paniculata – Grows as a tall (up to 6 meters), slender and twisting tree. Leaves are long and waxy. Small green or crème flowers appear in dense spikes.