HOW THE REDWOODS WEEP

The biggest trees in the world are the Giant Sequoias or Redwoods; they are probably one of the oldest known things on Earth. The biggest living tree of all is known as General Sherman. It is 83.8m tall with a girth, at near ground level, of 31.3m; the spread of the crown is 33m and the first branch breaks at 40m. It is probably about 2000 years old. Mega in every way! These giant trees grow naturally in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California; not so very different to our climate here around Cómpeta. The name sequoia is believed to be taken from the famous Cherokee Indian, Sequoyah who is accredited with the Cherokee syllabary, or writing by symbols. The big red tree named for the famous red man! Now I'm not suggesting you plant one of those giants but we do have something very special for you in the garden centre – the weeping sierra redwood or sequoiadendron giganteum 'pendulum'. It's an altogether much smaller proposition, to around 12m high and 1m, or a little more, wide and a real character of a tree. It is fantastical, whimsical and fun, forming mystical and mythical shapes; on dark wintry nights it can appear spooky and ghostly, like something from the wonderful tales of the Brothers Grimm. It forms a dense pillar shape, often twisting and turning, dipping and drooping; the branches are pendulous with a huge mane of weeping foliage. Depending on your mood they can resemble old stooped crones or wonderful mythical animals rearing and roaring, but wherever your imagination leads you, they are always animated. No two trees will ever grow the same and they are utterly captivating. Even the bark is an intense spongy red-brown and deeply furrowed, beautiful in its own right. And of course, typical of conifers, it has lovely aromatic evergreen foliage. In any garden these are utterly stunning, either singly and magnificent or in ghostly groupings. Let them stand alone; their unique sculptural shape deserves space, so don´t drown them in a mixed border. Like the rest of the redwood family, they are happier with some moisture around their roots, they love hot summers and cool winters and an open sunny position – so not so impossible for us, especially as this evergreen conifer becomes more drought resistant with maturity. They prefer well-drained soil though will tolerate clay as long as it doesn´t waterlog in winter and are happiest with a little acidity, so incorporate acid compost when planting and then top-dress occasionally with coffee grounds or pine needles. These trees will tolerate really high summer temperatures as long as they have adequate water at their roots and they are hardy down to around -7C. Added to that, they are really low-maintenance trees, pest resistant and don´t ever attempt to prune them as you will only spoil their natural flowing shapes. It is nowhere near as long lived as its stately cousin but will generally get to 100 years old and that is long enough for most of us! Sequoias are variable in cone production; some produce whilst young and others may take decades to come into production. The trees are monoecious, which means that male and female parts are on the same tree, so for pollinated and viable seeds, you need only one tree. The cones are around 7cm in length and they hang attractively from the weeping branches. Seeds can be extracted from mature cones but germination can be very slow and patchy. It's probably best to refrigerate the seeds for two or three weeks and then sow and move into a warmer place, to trick them into thinking that spring has arrived. Press them lightly into the compost but do not cover and place a sheet of glass over to keep humidity in. Once germinated, keep them fairly dry as overwatering can rot them. Remember that seedlings will be variable too; you may get some pendulous types but it is far more likely that most will be upright giants! These are fabulously bizarre and rare trees and we are delighted to be able to offer youngsters at around 1m high, already looking handsome, for €45 Viveros Florena – Probably the best little garden centre in Andalucía! Keep checking our web page for latest news and exciting new stock arriving at the garden centre. Join our mailing list to keep in constant touch. Shop on-line with us for Mediterranean plants, unusual plants, plug plants, scented roses, bulbs, coloured iris, organic products and my books. Winter Hours October to May: 10 – 4, Closed Sundays & Mondays. Summer Hours June, July & September: 9 – 2, Closed Sundays & Mondays and August. Viveros Florena, Crtra. Algarrobo/Cómpeta, km 2, Cómpeta, 29754, Málaga Tel: 689928201 Web: www.viverosflorena.com Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. And see us on Facebook – Lorraine Cavanagh's Garden Centre

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