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Wollemia nobilis (Wollemi Pine )

Extraordinary to think that these trees have been growing less than 100 miles from what we now call Sydney for several million years but they were only discovered in 1994. In a series of remote and steep sided valleys in N.S.W. (but still less than 100 miles from Sidney!) they lay undiscovered and the exact location is still a well kept secret.

They’re conifers and they definitely have a touch of the Monkey Puzzle about them but they’re much faster growing, narrower, softer and – in their natural habitat – grow quite close to each other. The shape reminds me of the Skylon they built for the Festival Of Britain in the early 1950s. Rocket shaped – narrow, tall, pointed at the top and tapered at the bottom.

Apparently there’s fossil evidence of their existence but they were assumed to be extinct. Like most primitive plants (when we have evidence that they haven’t evolved for millions of years), they’ve sorted themselves out to the extent that they can cope with most things – different soil and a vast range of temperatures. So far, they’re hardy in Britain and easy to please although they’re not at their best as a solitary specimen on an exposed site. They’ll survive but they’re clearly happier in the company of their own ilk or other trees.

Pretty and primitive and at their absolute best when seen from above. If you don’t happen to have a secluded ravine in your garden, plant them close enough to the house that you can enjoy them from an upstairs window.

Because they’ve been in cultivation in Britain for less than 20 years, growing this is a horticultural adventure. The ones at Wakehurst Place in Sussex were some of the first planted and after 15 years were about 15ft. How big will they get? How long will they live? Who knows? The introduction of these is a bit like the introduction of the Monkey Puzzles (Araucaria auraucana) in the 1840s. We now know the answer to those questions but they didn’t in 1860. How big? Huge. How long lived? we’re still waiting to find out.

N.B. When clipping several plants with the same tool, have a bucket containing a 5% bleach solution and swish your blades around for 30 seconds between plants to sterilise them. This will help avoid the chance of cross contamination of disease.

As with all woody plants, plant high, exposing as much of the taper at the base of the trunk as possible. Allowing soil to accumulate round the base of a tree can be fatal. Keep very well watered when first planted.

Hardiness traffic light green

Hardiness level Green

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Hardy anywhere in Britain below approximately 1000ft (300m)

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.