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Gardening with Gael - Jacaranda bloom a beauty


jacaranda(copy)The very best thing about the pre Christmas frenzy this year was a visit to Whangarei to witness the beauty of the jacaranda tree in full bloom.

“How can I describe it?” I asked Box. “I can hardly say ablaze with bloom when the flowers are a profusion of blue.”

Palmers Garden Guide does quite a good job by describing the jacaranda as ‘never failing to totally envelope itself through spring and summer with spectacular blue flowers.’ I think, with the heat and humidity of summer, the jacaranda provides that welcome idea of the coolness of blue.

As well as providing a stunning show, jacarandas cope well with the heat and drought. Originally from the subtropical regions of Central America, South America, Cuba and the Bahamas, jacarandas have been introduced to many subtropical regions. There are many beautiful photos of them planted in avenues in Australia and South Africa.

The variety that we are familiar with here is called jacaranda mimosifolia and comes from Brazil. They require a warm sunny climate with temperatures that do not fall below -4 degrees. Up at the Block I am growing them in a light clay loam. Here at the cottages it is straight sand with liberal amounts of grass clippings and when I look back over the years I confess that there has been little else.

Right now I can look out at the last of the flowers. Palmers Garden Guide describes the flowers as ‘mauve blue, tubular, bignonia-like 5cm flowers with flaring trumpets borne in 30cm terminal racemes from spring through to summer.’ I can’t think of a more accurate description.

Part of the charm of the jacaranda is also its form and leaf. They can grow to 7 metres, with a large irregular shaped head and arching open branches. One article I read about them said it is best not to prune them or they tend to form vertical suckers and that is exactly what has happened to one of the trees at the Block. One has been the perfect tree with even branches growing out in all directions, well balanced with a strong single trunk, covered in the lacy fern-like leaves they are renowned for. The other has been nothing but trouble. It grew off in one direction, was caught by the wind and blew over. To balance it I chopped the top out of the main branch to encourage side growth. But no. Exactly as the article reported, it still grew off in one direction with half a dozen vertical shoots from the base. During the next strong wind it fell over the bank. I hauled it back into a standing position, staked it with one of the pieces of timber Box was using as a profile for the new house, cut off the shoots, mulched it with gravel and tossed a few rocks around the base for stability. Then I had a few quiet, but very firm words with it.

The well behaved tree still looks perfect. Sometimes it can take 5 to 7 years for jacarandas to flower and so far it has yet to perform. This week when I went up to weed and mow lawns, there at the top of the straggly tree was a cluster of flowers. And from now on I know it too will do well.

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