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Winter Flowering Trees

Written by John James, posted on Thursday, February 7, 2019

Flowers and leaf stems of 'Arbutus x andrachnoides'.Normally when flowering trees are mentioned, thoughts will automatically turn to trees such as flamboyant spring flowering cherries and crab apples as well as the often spectacular flowers of horse chestnut trees. However at this time of year, some more subtle trees come into their own and a few can be found around the grounds of Christ Church. All are still quite young and recently planted in an attempt to increase the season of interest.

In the Pococke Garden there is an example of Arbutus x andrachnoides, a close relative of the more common Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), it is a hybrid of this and Arbutus andrachne, both native to Turkey and Greece.

Planted in 2013, this is a small tree that will never reach more than around eight to ten metres, it has attractive mottled cinnamon coloured, peeling (when mature) bark, reddish leaf stems and white bell-like flowers at this time of year.

Winter Flowering Cherry, 'Prunus x subhirtella' Autumnalis.Not far away but in the Masters Garden is the Winter Flowering Cherry, Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ with very pale pink, sometimes semi-double flowers.

Much less flamboyant than its spring flowering cousins this flowering cherry originated as a hybrid between two Prunus species in Japan, but is not found growing in the wild. It may produce small, black fruits which are too small to be edible, but will be enjoyed by birds.

Once mature the tree will appear as a cloud of flowers in the winter sky against the backdrop of the Cathedral. This is another small tree when mature only growing to around four meters in 20 years, this example was only planted in December 2017 as a replacement for an old tree that had reached the end of its life.

Close up views of the 'Parrotia persica' flowers.Tucked away in an obscure corner of the Meadow, near our composting area is a young specimen of Parrotia persica, the Persian Ironwood Tree, which is mainly grown for its brilliant autumn colours, but it also produces small red flowers at the time of year.

The red colour to the flowers is actually made up of stamens (male parts of the flower), rather than petals as is more common, indeed the flowers have no petals.

TClose up view of the modified stems that take the place of the plant’s leaves.his tree is a close relative of the more commonly seen Witch Hazel and is native to the mountains of Iran and Azerbaijan. Although it can reach tree-like proportions this plant is more commonly seen as a big sprawling shrub.

Returning to the Masters Garden, rather surprisingly there is a small evergreen Australian tree just coming into flower in the Mediterranean border, just as the weather reaches it coldest point.

This is Acacia pravissima, the Wedge-Leaved Wattle, Both the Latin and common names deriving from the oddly shaped triangular leaves, the tree has another common name of Oven’s Wattle which relates to the Oven’s Valley in Victoria Australia, where the tree grows wild. The leaves are actually modified stems (phyllodes), not leaves at all.

Once fully out the tiny ball-like flowers will be a strong yellow colour with a strong, pleasant fragrance.