Gardeners sometimes complain that deciduous trees, like the Red Bushwillow, are messy, with the falling leaves requiring constant raking up. Actually, in the end, deciduous trees require less work than evergreen trees that drop old leaves all year round. The deciduous trees shed their leaves quickly in a single season, providing loads of free material for mulch.
They are Mother Nature’s annual gift to you – so use them wisely and you’ll not need to buy expensive commercial mulches. Consider allowing those that have fallen on the lawn or in flowerbeds to remain just where they are – they keep the soil and plant roots cool and moist and eventually break down into humus.
Now that we have made our case for deciduous trees, take a moment to appreciate Combretum Erythrophyllum, the Red Bushwillow that is indigenous to Southern Africa and which has some very attractive features. The main trunk curves slightly, but it is quite sturdy, and the crown branches widely. The grey brown bark, which has orange tints in it, flakes off in places exposing the rich biscuit colour beneath. In spring the leaves are soft green, in summer their colour intensifies to glossy dark green, and in autumn they change to rich, dark reds and rust-brown hues. The tree is a fast grower, and reaches a size of about 10 x 13 m.
When do they bloom?
Tiny yellowish flowers appear in spring to early summer. They are followed by strings of papery, winged fruit. Birds, insects and wildlife love this tree, as do the floral artists who use the pretty seeds in arrangements.
Most suitable climate
In nature, Combretum Erythrophyllum grows in damp places, yet it is surprisingly drought and heat resistant. It is also relatively frost resistant and if properly tended, it will flourish in all regions.
What it needs
Location: full sun. As a medium-sized tree it is useful for larger urban gardens. Plant it in groups or next to a dam in rural gardens – water birds love to nest in it as the widely-branched crown provides a sturdy home.
Soil: any compost-enriched soil, whether sandy or clay, is fine.
Water: regular watering helps young trees establish quickly. Mature trees are medium water consumers.
Fertilizing: compost and bone meal in the planting hole and mulch around young trees are sufficient.
In a nutshell
* Lovely autumn colours.
* Interesting, somewhat willow-like growth habit.
* Attractive near water.