This isn’t the obvious time of year to be looking at trees and assessing their potential for the garden. But when you think about it, a tree or large shrub is often only at its peak for a very short period each year – often spring or autumn – yet what it looks like for the rest of the time is just as important. Lilacs look and smell wonderful in April and May (depending where you are), but their rusty dead flower-heads are not so lovely to look at for the months that follow. If you research Cornus (Dogwood) in most books you will see photographs of whippy stems in all their fiery winter glory, but this gives you no sense of what the shrub may look like for the rest of the year.
The hazel in my garden is a good example – I rather like it in the winter when the foliage is sparce and its sculptural criss-crossed trunks can be seen. In the spring the catkins are an attractive addition, but come the summer we have a drab green blob at the end of the garden. As I have said before, the hazel needs to go – the shoots it sends out at its base, increase its girth by several inches each year, and I am forever pulling up seedlings which, if left, are saplings in the blink of an eye. But what do I plant in its place?
This tree at the Botanic Gardens caught my eye. It is a Medlar (Mespilus germanica), and I have been watching it change week by week whilst studying at the Botanic Gardens. Over the past two months it has never looked anything other than lovely. I took the (not very good) picture below a couple of weeks ago, and the one at the top of this post a week or so later when the leaves were all but gone.
I love its shape, its size feels about right for a small garden and I like the fact that the curious-looking fruits remain after the leaves have fallen. One of my classmates says that although the fruits are a little bland they make great jam or jelly. Anyway, I shall continue to keep my eye on the Medlar to see how it performs in spring and summer, before I commit – I have a sneaking suspicion that it may have a drab green blob-like tendency. With that in mind, I’ll be looking into Quince trees, pears and plums as well. I will keep you posted.