When I Was Small And Christmas Trees Were Tall Metrosideros (Pohutukawa) – An Excellent Landscape Tree Or Shrub For a Mediterranean Climate Garden

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Metrosideros (Pohutukawa) – An Excellent Landscape Tree Or Shrub For a Mediterranean Climate Garden

Metrosideros is the botanical name for a species of landscape trees and large shrubs commonly known by the Maori name of pohutukawa or New Zealand Christmas tree. As a large evergreen plant, it is ideal for screening purposes, but is highly ornamental with its classy form, attractive, leathery foliage and attractive annual flowers.

Pohutukawa is relatively drought tolerant, thriving on 200 mm (8 in) of additional irrigation in near-desert climates with no more than 250 mm of rainfall per year. In a semi-arid Mediterranean climate with about 400 mm (16 in) of annual rainfall, it can tolerate less water, but will look better for occasional deep soaks in summer.

It is also tolerant of wind and sea spray, largely unaffected by pests and diseases, although it is unsuitable for areas with prolonged frost and cold. Metrosideros grow well in most soils with reasonable drainage, including alkaline soils in many dry climates. However, this is not a plant for the impatient, as it grows slowly in the first few years. However, the patient gardener will be rewarded with a beautiful and reliable landscape plant.

Combination and organization

What trees and shrubs does the New Zealand Christmas tree pair comfortably with? Its oval-shaped foliage is of medium size and texture and therefore fits well among landscape shrubs with similar foliage such as Pittosporum and Viburnum. This is especially good with another New Zealand native – Coprosma repens, whose cultivars have variegated or copper leaves, adding a gentle contrast to the light-green foliage of Metrosideros.

Consideration should also be given to how the plant will fit in with larger trees and low-growing shrubs. With this in mind, it combines excellently with tall eucalypts and small shrubs such as Green Island Ficus, dwarf Pittosporum, (“Wheeler’s Dwarf”) and Raphiolepis.

Pohutukawa, as a member of the myrtle plant family, (Myrtaceae) has characteristic stamen flowers of that plant family. Therefore, it is associated with other Myrtaceae plants such as Syzygium, Myrtle, Acmena and Callistemon.

Metrosideros is so attractive and useful as a screening plant, and so well adapted to the arid conditions prevailing in Mediterranean climates (except very cold areas), that gardeners in dry climates can hardly afford to ignore it.

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