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28/07/2021

Gardening: Take a parachute and jump

With Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

Gardening: Take a parachute and jump

Camellia parachutes

Parachute form trees are multi-stem trees with wide spanning, mushroom-shaped heads. The extensive head of foliage makes these trees ideal for screening, but they work equally well in large pots, and make spectacular statement pieces. Here at Caragh Nurseries, we use them quite often in our design projects where something a little unusual is required. The multi-stems create additional interest below the foliage, especially when paired with some contrasting underplanting like lavender.

Here’s just a few of our favourites that we love using in both residential and commercial garden design. These are multi-functional trees that you won’t see every day. They are equally fit for purpose providing screening and privacy as they are packing a punch with statement and style. Who said you can’t have it all?

Photinia Red Robin is a lovely evergreen shrub that adds a splash of colour with its red, young leaves and foliage. Red buds are just about bursting to open with white flowers in early May. We have a few different size options, which will provide really interesting screening, or structural statement pieces, which look amazing with the stems lit up in the evening.

Osmanthus Armatus, also known as Devilwood or Holly Olive, is a dense, rounded, evergreen shrub with big, glossy, dark green leaves. In autumn, clusters of fragrant, creamy-white flowers are produced, followed by oval shaped, dark purple fruit. The strong trunk on these parachute forms are a little different to those on the Osmanthus Aquafolium, which tend to have more slender stems, but more of them.

Osmanthus Aquafolium is another compact, evergreen shrub with holly-like, dark green leaves, which are usually spineless on mature plants. From late summer into autumn, clusters of fragrant, white flowers are again followed by blue-black fruit, and this variety of Osmanthus is particularly hardy for the Irish climate. These specimen multi-stem parachute shapes are really beautiful and we have used similar in some of our show gardens, as they are really special pieces.

Camellia Japonica & Sasanqua - Camellia japonica flowers in late winter and early spring, while sasanqua blooms in autumn and winter, both bringing welcome injections of colour and fragrance when it’s needed most. These parachute forms are simply stunning and look especially good when planted on their own, or in a simple row with up-lights, making the twisted stems come to life below the rounded head.

Platanus Acerifolia, better known as London Plane trees, are deciduous trees that have an attractive, mottled patch worked bark, with large maple-shaped foliage. They are very hardy, can withstand heavy pruning and are also good for shade. These ones have been grown into the most amazing multi-stem specimens, with three or more stems from the base. The foliage has been pruned into a very attractive parachute shape, with the multiple branches coming up to the rounded canopy.

Taxus Media Hicksii, the Anglo-Japanese Yew, is a strong, evergreen Taxus with an upright growing crown. Ascending branches are clothed with spreading, glossy green, spine-tipped leaves, sometimes bearing red fruits. This spectacular parachute form tree measures a neat 1-1.2 metres.

Pinus Watereri gives great interest throughout the seasons, with clusters of small cones amongst the stiff and twisted, steel blue coloured needles, contrasted with its cinnamon coloured bark. Due to the slow growing nature of this tree, it's ideal for being pruned and makes a great choice for shaping. This is a parachute form with short multi-stems and a large, almost ball shaped head, a really beautiful specimen.

Ilex Blue Princess, commonly known as the blue holly, is an evergreen shrub with glossy, dark green leaves, with a bluish tint, that are moderately spiny. This stunning specimen has clear twisted stems to approx 1.2metres, then a lovely parachute shaped head, which will be full of red berries in October/November.

As you can see, there’s something for everyone in these wonderful parachute forms. For lovers of the common laurel, we even have a spectacular parachute form specimen, which makes a great feature tree and measures about 2-2.5metres tall. Beautifully unique, these really are show stopping trees!

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