Possibly the most beautiful of all the Strawberry Trees with its large slightly glaucous leaf and remarkable smooth reddy brown bark (like copper pipe) that peels off to remove a lime green bark in early summer that then turns the smooth grey that covers it for most of the year which then turns back to the reddy brown in late winter. Got it? It has the normal white bell like flowers and occasional strawberry-like fruit and grows to 15ft x 15ft in about 10 years. Despite its southern provenance, it's proved hardy and successful in the stock field at Cooks Farm (the former home of Architectural Plants) and of the relatively few plants we've ever managed to produce, I know it's thrived from Western Scotland to a friends garden in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Spain. Like all Strawberry Trees, it needs good drainage. We don't know whether this will tolerate chalk but certainly tolerates (likes, even) limey soil.
Its identity is shrouded in mystery (is it even an Arbutus? is it an Arctostaphylos? Who knows?) but its provenance is not. Two plants were raised by Hilliers Nursery of Winchester in the early 1970s - introduced by a plant expedition to Mexico in 1969. The name of the collector, the exact position in Mexico and whether they were grown from seed or brought in as plants are all unknown. One was meant to be kept at the Hillier Arboretum in Romsey, Hampshire and the other was meant to be sent to the fledgling Ventnor Botanic Garden in the Isle of Wight. According to Simon Goodenough (the former curator at Ventnor), by a bureaucratic cock-up, they both got sent to Ventnor and - as far as I know - are still there. They both look identical and we took cutting from the one we thought the best in 1988/9.
Difficult to produce by cutting but we've had success growing them by micropropagation in the lab.
All the Strawberry Trees are prone to getting black spots on their leaves by the end of winter. It doesn't appear to be a fungal problem but is aggravated by the plant being less than content - usually either because it's in a pot or its roots are dying back due to over wet conditions. It's also a part of the natural disintegration and fall of old leaves before the new ones appear in the spring. There seems to be no treatment other than removing unsightly leaves by hand or be patient - the spring always brings nice fresh new perfect leaves.
IF IT HAS AN AMBER TRAFFIC LIGHT
Hardy in the Home Counties if sensibly sited (avoiding severe frost pockets, for example). Many Amber Labelled Plants are from cuttings from well-established plants that have survived many harsh winters in the South-East.
This is only meant as a guide. Please remember we're always on hand to give advice about plants and their frost hardiness.
Please remember that these coloured labels are only a rough guide.
General Point about Plant Hardiness: The commonly held belief that it's better to 'plant small' is perfectly true with herbaceous plants, but not necessarily true with woody plants. They need some 'wood' on them to survive severe cold - so plants of marginal hardiness in very cold areas should really be planted LARGER, rather than smaller, wherever possible.
|Coastal, Exotics, Mediterranean, Soil - Clay, Soil - Dry/Well drained, Space & Light, Trees - Small|