Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Loquats are blooming!

After following the Clemson extension planting guidelines for Fall planting in the Sandhills of SC and watching the late heat and dry weather decimate our hopes for a Fall garden these Loquat blossoms are a real treat.

Loquats are from Asia (pretty general right?) but are well established in the Southern US. I see them all over town in Columbia, mostly single trees as ornamentals in yards. Loquats are evergreen, reach a modest height of 20-30 feet, have large shiny leaves with a gray hairy underside, and are both easy to care for and attractive as ornamentals. I picked up some Loquat saplings from the landscape department at the school I work at downtown. A landscaper had collected saplings and they were just living in pots in a corner with little attention. The plants reproduce readily from the seeds of fallen fruit.

I planted them in full sun and they shot off like rockets with little extra care. I maintain a heavy layer of mulch but they are rooted in a well-drained very sandy soil. This is the northern exremity of their range. We are zone eight. Some years the fruit is killed off by a run of very cold nights. However last year I ate lots of fruit off the trees on campus. I also had some interesting conversations with students who were unaware that food was available above their heads.

Loquats bloom in the Fall and then the clusters of orange fruit mature in the late winter or early Spring. I'm very excited to see healthy blooms on my young trees and hopefully we'll stay warm enough to harvest some good fruit.

If you are zone eight or hotter, and the hotter the better, consider the Loquat for its attractive shape and foliage, food provision, and odd fruiting time. The orange fruits will stand out when everything else is just waking up from winter sleep. If you want one try hunting down a mature tree in your area. Chances are there are saplings waiting to be dug up and planted in your yard for free.

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