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Plants for Winter Interest – Arbutus Unedo (Strawberry Tree)

Winter can leave gardens feeling particularly bare and sparse, and finding ways to retaining a sense of life and colour over winter is a worthwhile goal for many. This can easily be achieved through informed planting choices, and with a little attention to structure any garden can remain invigorating throughout the colder months. One plant we’re happy to recommend on the merits of its winter interest is Arbutus unedo, the Strawberry tree.

As an evergreen shrub it features a bushy habit and retains a full appearance throughout the year. The plant begins to take on interest in early autumn, when white, bell shaped flowers begin to appear at the end of each stem. These make for excellent contrast in the otherwise dreary autumn period. The previous year’s flowering will produce small red fruits ripening over autumn, again adding a welcome splash of colour. They drop of their own accord around November or December, making this an excellent winter and later autumn specimen. The fruits are edible yet bland, and will serve local wildlife quite well. They resemble strawberry marzipan petit fours, and birds will love them. Butterflies seek out the nectar from the flowers, and can often be seen frequenting them on sunny autumn days.

You’ll want to plant Arbutus unedo in a well-drained soil with access to full sun. Being an evergreen with winter fruit it is naturally hardy, and requires no maintenance in terms of pruning. Left alone they’ll grow into a naturally bushy shape, though it’s safe to prune them into more formal ‘lollipop’ topiary shapes. The strawberry tree is appropriate for ground and container planting, though a group planted together as shrubs will be bushy enough to serve as noise barriers.

The Strawberry tree is an excellent investment to liven up a garden over late autumn and winter, and comes highly recommended by the English Woodlands team. If Arbutus unedo doesn't seem right for you, then feel free to take a look at our blog series on plants for winter interest.

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