Edible and beautiful

Mespilus germanica. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Mespilus germanica. Photo: Peter McIntosh
A very old-fashioned, but interesting fruit tree, Mespilus germanica is self-fertile so doesn't require cross pollination to fruit, which is great for the small garden. The fruit is a distinctive brown-green colour with a rough textured skin.

Allow the fruit to remain on the tree for as long as possible into winter and harvest when it picks easily. Timing is important in cold climates - the frost starts a process called bletting, changing the composition of the fruit, making it edible. Unfortunately, you don't get a lot fruit for the size as they contain several pips. You can also harvest the fruit while still hard after the first frost. Store somewhere cool and airy in a tray, single layer, stalk upwards, until they soften and are ready.

Even if you don't use the fruit to preserve, the medlar does make an attractive, small, spreading ornamental tree. As it sheds its leaves you are treated to a lovely autumn display. Belonging to the rose family, in spring time it is smothered in single white apple blossom type blooms.

A very easy-care tree, it needs to be allowed to develop its own interesting shape but may require a light prune to tidy. Plant in moist, well drained soil in a sunny location. It can cope with light shade.

If you want to plant something a little different, why not give one a go?

See it at Dunedin Botanic Garden beside the holly hedge, opposite the herbaceous borders.

 - Garden Life is produced by Dunedin Botanic Garden. For further information contact Linda Hellyer.

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