If you’re looking for an easy to grow, small, exotic tree with a strong, leafy structure, Eriobotrya japonica could be the one for you.
It has all the hallmarks of a warm climate plant. In the right conditions heavily scented, five-petalled white flowers are produced in late summer or autumn. These develop into fruit over winter and ripen the following spring.
The distinctive orange fruits, which you’ll find as Loquats or Nispero in Asian grocery stores, are exotically juicy and sweet, high in pectins and suitable for making jams or jellies.
The plant has been grown for its fruit in Japan for over 1,000 years and is grown widely in the Far East, Mediterranean and southern US.
But what about British gardens? Well, it is certainly a favourite, evergreen architectural plant. Fans appreciate its large shuttlecock-like leaves, exotic shape and the fact it's fully hardy, weathering winter nights down to -18C or -20C.
And the fruit - not a chance you might think!
You could, however, be wrong this year. With the very mild autumn and winter, plants in the West Country not only flowered well, but have borne good-enough fruit to ripen in the coming months.
If you’re lucky you might even come across a jar of home-grown Loquat jam at a garden fete this summer!
Credit: ripe fruit photo Jean-Pol Marchmont