Meet one of the coolest trees around… the lovely loquat, Eriobotrya japonica, a true Tree for All Seasons! What makes it so special? Well, for starters, it blooms right now. The dark of winter — December, January — when few, if any, plants are in flower. But the Loquat ignores all Common Sense …
… and bursts out in full bloom, much to the delight of the honeybees! (If you look closely at the photo above, you can see a bee carrying her pollen stash on her legs.)
One thing a photo can’t capture is the fragrance… heady, sweet but never cloying, a trace of vanilla… it’s unlike anything else, and I look forward to it all year. It has a marvelous way of drifting, traveling with the breeze and drawing you — and the bees — straight to the source!
The small, cream-coloured flowers aren’t overly showy, but the trees themselves have a lush, almost tropical beauty: foot-long, vividly green leaves, shiny on the tops and fuzzy underneath. As a tot, I would make loquat “shoes” every summer by tying the biggest leaves I could find to the soles of my feet with strips of grass. Come to think of it, when the weather warms up I just might make another pair; one can never be too old for Loquat Shoes!
And, of course, there’s the fruit — golden orange, sweet-tart, and filled with five or six giant, mahogany-brown seeds. Really, they contain far more seed than fruit, but we did make a tasty loquat marmalade one year…
… and the seeds themselves are worth saving, as they are easy to sprout if you’d like a loquat tree of your own! Just dry them for a week or so, then plant at a depth of about 1/2 inch in gallon pots, and keep moist but well-drained until they sprout. We usually have a few extras growing to give to beekeeper friends:
For such a showy tree, loquats are really quite well-behaved — no invasive roots or shoots, little raking or pruning required, tolerant of cold and heat, drought and frost. And, for the little care they do ask for, you’ll be rewarded all year long with luxuriant shade, tasty fruit and that splendid winter perfume! What more could you ask for than a loquat tree in your yard?
P.S. If you’d like some seeds to grow your own tree, just drop us a note! — bhranch @ gmail . com