In Mediterranean gardens citrus are an important feature to the integrity of a traditional design.
In a Cottage garden it may be the apple, peach, plum or pear tree.
Fruit trees have the capacity to fulfil many needs… of the designer and of the home owner.
The most important feature to remember is that it is a tree. As such, the potential as a landscape plant is as diverse as any other tree. Like any tree, it can be planted in the front yard or in the back. A tree can be used as a specimen focal plant or can be positioned to create the ideal micro-environment for planting beneath.
Horticulturally, for it to grow its best and to produce a worthwhile crop, care is needed with respect to soil preparation and maintaining health. Like any fruit tree it may require additional care for the control of pests and periodical pruning. By dispersing the fruit bearing trees throughout the garden there is an expectation of reduced pest infestation.
When creating a tropical garden, a star apple (Chrysophyllum cainito), white sapote (Casimiroa edulis) or avocado (Persea americana) can be utilised to create essential shade or screening. For smaller areas, pruning Grumichima (Eugenia brasiliensis) and Jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora) will produce the perfect hedges, plus abundant fruit. Even the coffee bush (Coffea arabica) makes an excellent hedge. Pawpaws (Carica papaya) can be used as foliage accent plants while young.
If recreating the serenity of a Japanese garden, look towards non-astringent persimmons (Diospyros kaki) or low chill peaches.
For attractive coloured foliage, search out the autumn tones that are created in deciduous fruit trees.
Native gardens can also benefit with this multi-functional principle. Davidsonia plums (Davidsonia pruriens), native laurel (Eupomatia laurina) and of course the Macadamia nut (Macadamia integrifolia) are all attractive and productive trees.
Vines that bear flowers are appreciated for the duration of the floral colour and foliage that creates shade and liveable space beneath them. Vines that produce edible fruit are appreciated for their coloured flowers in addition to the attractive and colourful fruit, plus the same benefits of liveable space in the shade of the vine. Classic fruit bearing vines that are used in landscaping are grapes (Vitis vinifera) and passionfruit (Passiflora edulis).
Vines are best used on arbours and pergolas to force the resulting image of pendant fruit, a classic image of opulence.
Fruit trees and vines should be encouraged throughout the garden. The aesthetic appeal of a plant can often be as important as its fruit bearing potential. By incorporating these trees in your garden it is possible to complement your design with productivity.
Written by Paul Plant, FAIH, freelance garden and horticultural writer.