Since Victorian times, the Chilean myrtle has seeded itself in millions at Glanleam, Co Kerry; in places their wonderful cinnamon trunks soar over 60 feet high. The rust-coloured bark, flaking to reveal creamy-white patches beneath, is one of the most charming features of this evergreen tree; the clouds of white blossoms are an added bonus in late summer while in autumn these are followed by edible purple berries that are gorged on by hungry blackbirds.

In 1957, when the Glanleam Estate was owned by Colonel Richard J Uniake, his wife Peggy spotted a single variegated seedling, a sport among thousands of ordinary green-leaved seedlings. She dug it up, replanting it in a safe place just off the Broad Walk near the house, removing any green reversions. It still grows in the same place and has long-since proved to be a first-class shrub or small tree. For year round interest it’s hard to beat, the leaves are grey-green in the centre and splashed with a creamy yellow margin. I rate it as one of the best small trees for modern gardens and it is widely available.

(As appeared in Newsletter 151, January 2021. Text and photo courtesy of Seamus O’Brien)