When the giant sequoia came to join us back in March, I got a big nudge in the ribs about my long-standing intention of having a Wollemi pine growing here. It had been one of those things sitting on a shelf a bit out of reach. The one labelled ‘Non-essential and at least several years down the road’. Clearly though I’d put it on the wrong shelf. For whatever reason, it belonged on ‘Now, this Spring’, so squeaking in under the wire before summer temperatures start to soar, here it is.
The tree comes from Kernock Park Plants in Cornwall, UK growers and suppliers of the Wollemi pine, and was able to hitch a ride to Portugal with our man-with-a-van when he dropped by recently. To my knowledge, this is only the third Wollemi pine in Portugal. The first was bought in October 2005 at auction in Australia by Beja Public Gardens. After suffering excessive heat stress in its first summer, it survived to be planted out this year when the gardens reopened after renovation. (Unfortunately it has since died.) A second was supplied by the Cornish nursery to the Algarve in 2006. And now there’s Quinta do Vale’s tree which arrived earlier this month.
Although the tree is extraordinarily tenacious and will survive in a wide range of conditions, including drought, I was keen to give it balanced conditions with some elements of the parent plants’ environment in Australia. Because summer temperatures here can be right at the upper end of the range the tree is known to tolerate, it has been planted at the edge of the woodland area on the quinta in a spot that will get around 3 hours of full direct sunlight in summer, but which is also surrounded by tall trees, filtering out some of the sun’s strength for the remainder of the day and also encouraging upward growth. The precise planting position is on the rockier edges of the stream’s valley floor with fairly thin, well drained soil over schist bedrock, but it’s generally a damper and more fertile, humid environment than the drier slopes in full sun. Nearest neighbours are chestnuts, hazels and Frederick, who’s lower down and closer to the stream to satisfy his greater thirst for water.
The tree was supplied with a mixture of dried mycorrhizal fungi to enhance root function and development, so was planted with this and a ‘welcome home’ watering with nettle liquid plant feed which is high in nitrogen and low in phosphorus, suiting the tree’s preferences.