Great Plants this Month

Arbutus x andrachnoides AGM

hybrid strawberry tree?

image of Louise Sims
Louise Sims

I first saw this beautiful tree at Kew Gardens a very long time ago, but the impression made by its peeling cinnamon-brown bark was a lasting one, and when Rob and I were making important choices about trees for our new garden, it was one of the first to go on the list!

Mentioning no names of nurseries, the first specimen we bought turned out to be A unedo – so we then set about looking for the genuine article. We had lost 10 years or so of potential growth, but we needn’t have worried; this was about 20 years ago, and that small young tree took off, and is now eight to 10 metres high, so it’s no slouch.

It is upright in habit and has glossy green foliage, but if I had one criticism, it would be that in the run up to spring it loses almost all of its leaves and looks like nothing on earth. It could be that it’s objecting to our cold Sussex clay, but come what may, it recovers quickly. Its hardiness rating is H4 so perfectly hardy even in quite severe winters, and I read that its cold tolerance increases with age.

This strawberry tree is a naturally occurring hybrid between A unedo and A andrachneit likes a free-draining soil and is best placed where it will stand in the warm glow of the evening sun. For us, flowers are few and far between, and the fruits (which give it its common name) are rare.

We have opened our garden once or twice and, on those occasions, almost everyone who walked into the back garden went straight up to the arbutus to feel its trunk. You may not regard yourself as a tree hugger, but I guarantee you wouldn’t be able to resist a stroke!

NB Louise has published a beautifully produced book of her plant profiles – A Plant for Each Week of the Year. It costs £9.99 and is for sale in our online shop here.

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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

3 replies on “Arbutus x andrachnoides AGM”

Hi. I would like to get a strawberry tree but have only ever heard of the unedo version. How exciting that there is something a little different. What is the difference between the two and why is andrachnoides in your opinion superior? Would be great to have your input before I take the plunge…! Thank you.

Hello Nicola
A unedo is denser in habit, it can be left as a shrubby dome, or shaped over time as a tree; it will become a similar height eventually, but I would say that it is slower growing. In my experience you may be more likely to get flowers and fruit from A unedo, and it is also more easily sourced. A lot of this depends a little upon your location.
I would say that the main difference between these two is the amazing bark that comes with A x andrachnoides, which is why I went to such trouble to find the correct one!
Happy hunting! Louise

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