The trees and shrubs shown on this site come from every continent with the obvious exception
of Antarctica. Some areas have comparatively few garden-worthy shrubs, some very many.
It is helpful when growing any plant to understand the climatic conditions from which
it originated. On these five pages we have discussed the main countries where the plants
have been discovered, thus annotating the climates, temperatures and rainfall in which they thrive.
The southern hemisphere
Because it has more sea, and fewer large land masses, the southern hemisphere is
warmer in winter and cooler in summer than are similar at latitudes in the north.
The southern tip of South America extends further south than any other land mass
outside Antarctica (which is everywhere too cold for the growth of shrubs). It is
here, in southern Chile and Argentina, that the frost is sufficiently heavy for some
species to survive outdoors in Britain. Valdivia, at 40 degrees South, is roughly
on the same latitude as New York, Madrid or Beijing, but has much milder winters.
The hardiest species come either from the Andes or from the southernmost coastal
areas such as Chile or Tierra del Fuego, and even there the cold air is moist and
snow-laden, coming across the sea from the Antarctic, not dry as it is in most of
the northern hemisphere.
Most Chilean shrubs can therefore tolerate cold only when very sheltered, and the
most beautiful such as Desfontainea, Eucryphia or Embothrium survive only in moist
sheltered gardens on the western coasts of Europe or North America. Fuchsia magellanica
survives as a shrub near these western coasts, but behaves as a herbaceous plant,
sprouting each year from below ground, in colder areas.
The Chilean flora was introduced to Europe mainly through the efforts of the great
nursery firm of Veitch. They sent William Lobb to Chile in 1840 and again in 1845.
Later collectors in this area were H. J. Elwes and Harold Comber, son of the head
gardener at Nymans, Sussex, who visited southern Argentina and Chile in 1925 and 1927.
Many of Comber's plants can still be seen growing at Nymans.
The southernmost part of Africa extends even less far south than South America
or New Zealand, and contains few frost-tolerant shrubs. On a recent visit to the
coldest part of the Drakensberg mountains in Natal and the northern Cape Province,
shrubs were almost absent above 2000 m, an altitude at which -15°C is regularly reached.
Low-growing Euryops and other Compositae and Leguminosae such as Lotononis and Sutherlandia were
the main genera. We hope that Sutherlandia montana (shown here) may prove hardy in southern
England, as, in its native habitat, it should experience a dry, cold wind from the high plateau
of Lesotho. The glorious shrubs of the Cape flora are adapted to a Mediterranean climate and
do well in California or southern Europe, but few tolerate much frost. Some heathers,
Leucodendrons, and one or two Proteas may be grown outside, and tolerate a few degrees of frost.
Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand
Shrubs from this area are generally less hardy than those from Chile, and are also
intolerant of cold, dry wind. Many Australian shrubs do well in California
and the Mediterranean region, so well that they even become pests.
Acacia dealbata is widely naturalized in most temperate
parts of the world where it can survive the winters. The commonest New Zealand shrubs
in Europe are probably the hebes, but only smaller alpine ones are reliably hardy
even in southern England. Other genera commonly grown in warm gardens are Olearia,
Eucryphia, Leptospermum, Correa, and Sophora.
No horticultural collectors were pre-eminent in introducing Australian or New
Zealand plants in the nineteenth century. In recent years Lord Talbot de Malahide
introduced many Tasmanian plants to his garden near Dublin, and Graham Hutchins of
County Park Nursery continues to introduce many New Zealand species.
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