Increase the summer heat with the Chilean Fire Bush
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Increase the summer heat with the Chilean Fire Bush

SUMMER weather is often docile without being fiercely hot.

On some days, the sun breaks through the dense early-morning mists (which are common to all maritime counties) and gardeners see these vast moving vapours as a portent for prolonged fine weather.

In the garden, these mists move in quietly and developing herbaceous plants usually give a sleepy heave as the first breath of wind stirs them.

The only noticeable branch movements however come from lively bouncing blackbirds and overweight pigeons that seem to be on the increase in numbers and in aggressiveness.

But even when it is cloudy, gardeners can enjoy their passion for the light remains gentle and flowers look well from any angle.

These are days of benediction, perfect for pottering and photography, but either way many plants commence exhaling an abundance of delicious scents.

There are some flowers that we expect to be scented; if they are not, they are relegated to our second-choice division.

Others, of which we do not demand this quality, may surprise us by producing it.

Show a red rose to anyone (with or without a perfume) and they will automatically put their nose to it. Why not to others?

Many garden and countryside plants have a perfume which they like to liberally splash around, sometimes for quite a distance from their location; coconut-scented gorse is a good example, so too vanilla Azara microphylla, clove carnations, and wild woodbine to name just a few.

And yet, one of the most stunning trees of summer has neither scent nor perfume worth mentioning.

I refer now to Embothrium coccineum, commonly known as the Chilean Fire Bush.

This is one of the best evergreen garden treasures most often seen in the milder and wetter counties, but a popular choice for the connoisseur and knowledgeable in colder gardens.

In the West, this should prove very worthwhile.

I mention this because the Embothrium prefers a site sheltered from cold, drying winds. Given moist, well-drained, lime-free soil it will come to perfection.

Given these conditions, expect the tree to produce long, lance-shaped, dark green leaves packed with masses of tubular, scarlet flowers held in clusters all along the growths (made the previous year) during early summer and through to July.

In full flower, set in grass against a blue sky and without neighbouring plants to obscure its magnificence, the tree will literally stop you in your tracks.

It eventually rises to all of thirty feet with a spread of half that amount and the blooms last for a considerable time irrespective of the weather.

This dignified and comely tree has the distinct habit of freely suckering and I have yet to see one that does not send up enough to make a copse.

These usually succumb to the onslaught of mower blades (when grown in a lawn) but constant vigilance must be maintained when grown elsewhere.

Reputedly short-lived, the exceptional specimens I know and admire locally have been around for as long as I can remember.

Embothrium are generally not hard to source.