In praise of Pohutukawas – NZ’s own Christmas tree!
Ask any ex-pat kiwi living overseas what they miss most at Christmas time, and chances are they’ll say ‘seeing the pohutukawas in bloom’.
Metrosideros excelsa are starting to flower now in many northern parts of NZ, and get later the further south you go, with pohutukawas in Dunedin usually flowering in February and March.
Which one to choose for your garden? Here are some well-behaved ones!
• Metrosideros ‘Vibrance’ –Compact, with bright orange-red flowers a bit like the southern rata.
• Metrosideros 'Scarlet Pimpernel' – frost tolerant once established, and small at 3-4m. It’ll flower its socks off, great in a large container.
• Metrosideros ‘Maori Princess’ – gorgeous deep crimson flowers, an upright tree or shelter belt to around 7m.
• Metrosideros ‘Tahiti’ – a fantastic shrubby pohutukawa to 1.5m that would also look great in a tub. Flowers at various times during the year. Likes a sunny spot with some shelter and good drainage.
• Metrosideros ‘Mistral’ - a small tree, or get the shrub form, only a few metres high. Actually a cross between a pohutukawa and a rata.
• Metrosideros carminea ‘Red Carpet’– forms a low shrub to around 50cm high and a metre wide. Flowers from late winter to spring, gorgeous in a tub or hanging over retaining walls.
• Metrosideros perforata – a white flowering shrub or climber with glossy green leaves and small white flowers.
By choosing a smaller cultivar for a tub you can make the NZ Christmas tree your Christmas tree as well, and wheel it in for the festive season.
You could also make a fantastic wreath by cutting a few pohutukawa stems and wiring them together with twist ties. Not long lasting, but an awesome thing to have on your front door for Christmas Eve!