A number of years ago my brother gave us a gift for the garden, a tiny loquat he dug from his daughter’s yard in Charleston SC. In checking what Michael Dirr had to say, I discovered the plant is prized for its lustrous foliage, its 12” heavily textured leaves, its drought tolerance, its fragrant and profuse blooms in the fall and unusual fruit in the spring. I was thrilled.
But, what’s this he writes about hardiness? Dirr recommends the loquat for zones 8-10. Gloucester is zone 7. Well, close enough, I thought as I planted it as a specimen in the center of the yard overlooking the river. Although I mulched it well each fall, it died back completely to the ground for the next three winters. It was barely clinging to life in zone 7.
I had nothing to lose by relocating the little fellow to a spot more sheltered from the winter winds. Surely it would die or always be a stunted shrub. To my surprise, this insignificant twig thrived in its new home on the corner of the garden shed under the protection of loblolly and white pines. Seven years later, that small plant is now a 20’ tree that has grown over the roof of the garden shed and into the branches of the pines.
I adore this evergreen with its massive, leathery leaves that are spectacular in flower arrangements and a show stopper in the winter border but it has outgrown its home. If I could move the garden shed about 10’, I would. Removing the pines is not an option. Each year I carefully trim up the pines to accommodate the loquat and trim enough branches of the loquat to squeeze by with my wheelbarrow on the way to the compost.
The plant overcrowding has been a lesson learned and a valuable one that has prevented me from repeating similar mistakes in the garden. And someday I must tell Michael Dirr that, with a little protection, the loquat thrives in zone 7.
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester