Magazine article Sunset

If Only It Could Talk ... This Arbutus Has Survived Several Brushes with Extinction

Magazine article Sunset

If Only It Could Talk ... This Arbutus Has Survived Several Brushes with Extinction

Article excerpt

It comes as a disappointment to Western gardeners that the handsome native madrone tree is very difficult to cultivate: trees are sensitive to garden transplanting, and the slightest overwatering in summer will kill them. For good reason, nurseries seldom sell the trees.

That's why people who like madrones will consider the introduction of the tree pictured here to be significant. Newly available Arbutus 'Marina' has many of the virtues of the madrone, and it thrives in the garden, as madrone rarely does.

You can transplant 'Marina' without hurting it. The tree tolerates any kind of watering short of rice paddy or swamp. And, once established (in two to three years), it can survive nicely with no summer irrigation. However, the more water and fertilizer it gets, the faster it grows.

At maturity, the new Arbutus hybrid reaches 40 feet in height and width.

Rosy flower clusters are showier than those of madrone, and they appear in fall, when color is scarce. Evergreen leaves are smooth and bronzy when new, with finely notched edges like those of strawberry tree (A. unedo), but they grow bigger--to 4-1/2 inches. As with madrone, the attractive bark emerges bright red and then turns to burnt cinnamon.

'Marina' branches readily, and the top spreads in the manner of an olive tree. …

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