On eucalyptus

I have a new group of design students and told them I’d post some info on eucalyptus – and spell out my objections to these.

Frankly, they belong in their native Australia, where they are an important part of the ecology, seemingly tolerant of both drought and flooding (as, incidentally, are date palms). Far from home, I find they just do not integrate with northern hemisphere plants. Besides, ultimately, they can make huge trees, of rather indeterminate form.

Eucalyptus gunnii is the species most commonly seen, grown chiefly for its silvery young foliage. To ensure this is in ready supply, plants should be cut back hard every year in late winter or early spring. This also keeps them in check – I have come across countless neglected specimens, rather straggly-looking and dull grey in colour. Even with regular pruning, I think they are best in town gardens where the planting is deliberately restricted.

The snow gum has outstandingly beautiful bark

The delightfully named snow gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. niphophila) is probably the nicest, with beautiful peeling bark and a tendency to produce several spreading trunks from the base. But proceed with caution – it needs space.

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