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News from the Moble Garden – Trees

October 18, 2019
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Goodness, there is not enough wine in the land to get you through the last few days of fearful conditions. As I know many of you are enduring similar circumstances, best not to dwell; just keep our fingers crossed that where the wine grows, the season may be kinder. Whatever happens, the vintage must go on!

In dire times, we can always turn to trees (trees and wine; wine under trees, wine in trees, whatever works for you). I thought I might make mention this week of a couple of good trees for our gardens in the West.

The Chinese Elm, Ulmus parvifolia, is a good backbone tree here in the Moble garden. When I was married, we were all planting them in our gardens, however on reflection, I don’t see them planted much anymore and cannot think why this would be so. A quick check has revealed they are not on the WONS list, so are not yet outlawed. Most of the plants that grow well out here are outlaws, possibly explains most of us as well. I did find an article on Chinese Elms being declared invasive in Brisbane, however the article referred to the Celtis spp not the Ulmus spp. Another reason to use the Latin darling.

The Chinese Elm is a reasonably quick growing tree to 10m, with small, dark green serrated leaves and a welcome spreading canopy. The branches grow in a pendulous fashion and if the tree is left to grow in its natural form, has a most pleasing vase shape. The trunk develops an interesting, mottled bark over time, almost papery in appearance. They do tend to sucker a little, hardly something to keep you awake at night. Here at Moble they grow in quite heavy clay but I have seen them growing in much lighter mulga soil as well.

 The Chinese Elm handles our heat well and once established, is pretty tough actually. You don’t see it gasping mid-afternoon, thank goodness. That would be a very tiresome trait for a tree. My sister- in- law grows them in mulga soil on her bore water, she told me in places where there is no water for months at a time. Impressive indeed, surely great survivors. They are deciduous and whilst not particularly spectacular in autumn, they turn a pleasing yellow all the same. I have planted three since 2014 and they are now looking very tree-like. One would be a candidate for a table and chair underneath: wine under trees, please refer above.

Another tree I wished I had planted ten of instead of one is the Drunken Parrot Tree, Schotia brachypetala. Such a pretty name (brachypetala), this tree looks spectacular in a blaze of red this month. The nectar filled flowers are irresistible to parrots, though I have not noted any great influx of them here in our tree and am seeing them elsewhere whilst out on my morning walk. The nectar in the flower ferments and the over-indulgent parrot is left with a hangover after a long walk home I suspect.

My Schotia was given to me by Mrs. Monler Snr, not long after I was married. The parent tree at Monler was magnificent and grew there on bore water. Here, on creek water, it has grown into a veritable green secret garden. Almost as broad as it is tall, with branches stretching out to touch the ground, it is a tree for grandchildren. The leaves are a good mid to dark glossy green and the brown seed pods are quite decorative as well. I have resisted pruning the lower branches, so if you are able to duck down and crawl under its thick green veil, a whole enchanted world is revealed beneath. The ground underneath is a woven leaf carpet and it is the ideal spot for planning and plotting a childhood coup.

Periodically, Mr. Moble suggest we prune it back as it now encroaches considerably on the drive. Even though I know he is teasing, I always jump to its defence. Not a leaf should be disturbed, this tree is treasure. Park and walk I say if you can’t drive aroundthe tree. Incidentally, I have just walked outside to see what the bird ruckus is all about and can now tell you the Schotia is full of very, very chatty Mynah and Bower birds. Hopefully they will have their fill and leave the Nectarine tree alone until I can cover it.

Before I leave you this week, I am thrilled to write that Mrs. Brown’s poppies have been flowering away, filling the beds with overblown pink ballgowns. Taffeta I should think. These poppies are like welcoming back an old friend, familiar and comfortable and so easy to chat with. I shall be consistent and keep the seed pods, for they are filled the pepper like promise for next year. Just by the by, poppy seed pods, after you have shaken the seeds out, look fabulous in flower arrangements too.

 Mrs. Green’s Hollyhocks are growing madly, both from seeds caste in-situ and ones I grew in seed boxes and transplanted. Fingers crossed they continue, despite the conditions. How interesting I should have so many colour- based friends: brown for the earth and green for the plants. That’s how the garden grows.

Hope you are all finding a shady canopy somewhere to enjoy,

The Moble Gardener