Sussex Eucalypts

Were you to walk up the drive from the Priory you would, after a couple of hundred yards, come to an area of mown grass surrounded on three sides by the margins of a small wood. In January 2009, I thought it would be a good idea to plant Eucalyptus gunnii here.  Three of them.  So I did.
Here is a photo of that day – you can make out that the young trees are barely as tall as my spade.  I wanted to plant eucalypts, after reading an article about a garden in, I think, Sussex.  A beautiful garden with a high storey of eucalyptus and a lovely under-planting of light-shade loving plants.  I can’t for the life of me remember which garden it was but I was taken with the idea.  Now though, I regret planting something so, well, alien in the Sussex Weald.  I wish I’d planted hazel or sweet chestnut.  Yes.  A nice sweet chestnut copse.  That I could coppice.  Something native – or at least something that has been native for a couple of millenia.  (Sweet chestnut was introduced to Britain by the Romans).
But I didn’t and now, almost three years on, the eucalypts have romped away.  I have stuck an Anxious Gardener into shot to give an idea of scale.  (For those of you still using old money, 1 AG = 6 feet or 1 metre 83cm). The eucalyptus above has done particularly well.
The second tree is also going strong. (Incidentally, despite looking like fake, ceramic toadstools, those are real ink caps).
And the third eucalyptus?  Frankly rubbish.  It isn’t well and is either dead or dying.  Shame.  I shall leave it be over the winter and see whether it re-sprouts next spring.  I have experience of failing eucalypts; oh, yes.
On a further area of lawn, is a snow gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora) a particularly beautiful tree (I think) and super hardy (-20C).  Something wasn’t right however because though it was seven or eight feet tall when I planted it, this year it died back to ground level.  Now, whenever I walk past it, I crouch down and give it a little pep talk.  It seems to be responding and is coming back.
There is one other eucalyptus at the Priory.  This is also a gunnii and I planted it last year in the garden, in the rock border.
Here, I am growing it as a shrub.  In it’s second (forthcoming) spring I shall cut the stem down to 18 – 24 inches and strip off any remaining branches.  I’ll be left with a ‘stick’ in the ground.  Lovely.  I shall panic – but then within a few weeks the ‘stick’ will re-sprout and I’ll have an impressive flush of the pretty, round, glaucous juvenile leaves.  (As the tree grows bigger it’s leaves become thinner, longer and more pointy).  In it’s third spring (and subsequent ones), I shall snip off all it’s branches to encourage fresh growth.  I’d better not forget to keep on cutting it back.  Eucalypts grow to be big trees.  There is an enormous specimen at Sheffield Park (a National Trust property in East Sussex).  Planted in the first years of the 20th century you, me and another couldn’t link arms about it’s mighty trunk.  They are impressive evergreens but they grow very big, very fast and are brittle; they shed branches easily and often. So if you’re planning on planting one, be warned!  Don’t plant one near your house (like dozens I’ve seen) and don’t park your mint 1950 Bentley underneath one.
And finally, whatever you do, don’t ever introduce them to Sicily where they will quickly colonize the whole island.  Doh!  Too late.
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15 thoughts on “Sussex Eucalypts

  1. Hi Stacy, glad you're about again. I had reached out for the bat-phone a couple of times! Eucalyptus is a very evocative smell, isn't it? And not one I was keen of until, like I said above, I lived with it for two weeks in NYC.

    I think I've done all my exotic prep now. Guess, I'll find out in the Spring when I see whether I did it properly.

    Dave

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  2. I always associate eucalyptus with California, and that smell on a hot day, like Helen was saying. It never ceases to amaze me what a vast range of things you all can grow over there–a couple of posts ago Janet was writing about winter preparations to protect exotics and had my jaw dropping.

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  3. Hi Luton Boys, indeed. In my last garden I planted a gunnii and coppiced it each year for four years, By the time we moved out in 2010 the trunk was coming along nicely and must have been 5 inches across. I rather miss it!

    Hi Janet, well done for digging it up and transferring to a pot and keeping it alive! Way to go!

    Hi Alberto, yeah that underplanting sounds damn fine. Damn fine. I haven't been to Kew for about 18 years. Unforgiveable. I ought to be punished.

    Hi MM, almost always sad to take out a healthy tree. I try not to weep at some of the changes in my old garden as I drive past.

    Dave

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  4. I do love eucalyptus but my garden is a little on the small side and after having to remove trees planted by the previous owners that were unsuitable for the garden I have managed to restrain myself. I hate having to dig out lovely trees. The effort required is always more than you think it will be and it's just sad really to lose a tree. Loving those inkcaps.

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  5. I've seen a lot of beautiful eucalyptus in southern England. You are right about natives but sometimes you have to dare with something more exotic.
    If I close my eyes I still can see a beautiful big eucalyptus I've seen at Kew Gardens. White and smooth bark and silvery leaves. Amazing.
    And they had another smaller one (at Kew) underplanted with veronicastrum bombiciferum, white salvia sclarea and stipa gigantea on gravel: I loved it.

    Alberto.

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  6. I took one of our Eucalyptus out a few months ago (it was in a bit of a wind tunnel and had gone very tallwith a lack of leaves)It's now in a large pt and has been cut down to size. And it's actually sprouted! I replaced it with a real tree… a whitebeam.

    Having already taken one eucalyptus out I'm keeping the other as a bush

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  7. It just shows how quick growing this Eucalyptus tree is. As what you've done, it's best to plant out a small sapling as they establish better than bigger ones, which has a tendency not to anchor themselves properly and develop a lean once it gets even bigger.

    If you keep cutting back a Eucalyptus (coppicing)you can get it to develop a fat trunk with lots juvenile leaves, eventually looking like a gnarly, old olive tree instead. Lovely 🙂

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  8. No Janet, you can't be trusted! Glad you got the 'surgeon to it in time. Which reminds me. I really ought tell the people who bought my old house about the gunnii in the front garden and what they need to do to it every year …

    Dave

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  9. I love eucalyptus. I planted a gunii in my tiny garden, promising myself to regularly cut it back for the beautiful juvenile foliage. It worked well for years. Then I left it a couple of years, and had to take a saw to it. That was OK, it was soon back to being a vigorous shrub. Then there were another couple of years where I just left it, and it started turning in to a rather lovely tree. So I let it. Until I realised that it was taller than the house and leaning outward gently… The tree surgeon said I was lucky it hadn't come down already… I won't be planting one again, I just can't be trusted with it.

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  10. Glad the Bentley is safe, Faisal. And thanks for the picnic invitation. One day I'll take you up on that. It was your post a few weeks ago re eucalypts that made me think I ought to do one about mine!

    Helen, a friend of mine used to live in a tiny flat in New York's upper east side. And she always had sprigs of eucalyptus in her bathroom. Whenever I smell it now, it's to her tiny, cramped bathroom that I'm transported. I like the peeling bark too – great for getting bonfires started!

    Ouch, Elaine. I used to work in a garden where the owners had planted a small group of eucalypts 30 years previously. They are now 60 feet tall! They don't hang about!

    Dave

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  11. I made the same mistake – I planted one for the foliage but never got round to pruning it one winter and the next thing I knew I was paying £200 to have it chopped down. How did that happen!

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  12. Whenever I have grown eucalypts in the past I have cut them down in the spring to about 3ft as I like the young foliage. However there is a stunning mature specimen up the road from me and the smell from it on a hot day is amazing. I also love the bark on mature trees and the way it breaks off into curls

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  13. I've parked my 1950 Bentley in a safe hideaway David, where no eucalypt will drop its branches. I am hoping, though, to have a number of picnics this coming summer, where eucalypts will not only be encircling proceedings, but may likely be the primary guests.
    One day you must drop down here, where everything is upside down and the trees grow in alarming, contrary manners.

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