In this series of monthly articles Bob explores the incredible range of plants you can grow in a greenhouse, conservatory or plastic tunnel. Not just the purely decorative but the scented and edible also, and maybe those plants that are just downright interesting. This month Bob nominates Guavas.
Now Guavas, Psidium Guajava, are not one of the first tropical fruits that spring to mind for the glasshouse or conservatory but they should be. They are self fertile, really tough, small tree-like shrubs easy to keep pruned and managed in big tubs- if a bit thirsty.
They are quite decorative subjects for a conservatory and with the same size and hardiness they well accompany orange and lemon trees, even going outdoors for the summer. Their flowers are creamy, a bit like small shaving brushes, their leaves somewhat laurel like though not as shiny, and they are deciduous. Indeed nearly hardy, guavas endure low if not freezing temperatures, complaining by dropping their leaves but usually recovering. However unless you grow them yourself, under glass or plastic, you will never believe how lusciously scented their fruits can be, nor how powerful. One fruit can perfume a whole house. This wonderful aroma can be enjoyed for long before, and again, whilst eating the ripe fruits, which much resemble fresh figs. To be fair their seeds are hard and numerous and the flesh a tad stringy, but sweet and perfumed these fruits are. And home grown ones are far better than most sold here or abroad. Guavas grow and crop easily, in fact they benefit from thinning, when pea sized, if you want the hugest most succulent fruits to amaze your friends.
Specialists offer named specimens but good plants can quickly be grown from supermarket fruit seed given a warm propagator. They are not at all demanding to compost and will thrive in almost any half decent mixture and respond well to regular light feeding though do not overdo it. Their main requirement is a lot of water. Seedlings fruit within four or five years.
There are two main strains; the apple shaped green and red, and the pear shaped golden and yellow, I prefer this latter though many prefer the former. There is also the excellent strawberry, cherry or mountain guava, P. cattleianum, which is evergreen with smaller leaves, very nearly hardy and has purple red fruits which are delicious! Any surplus crop can be made into the famous guava jelly. As well as fruiting well guava’s have another use; their bark flakes off each year; which along with dropped leaves and prunings, is superb dried and shredded for smoking foods with an authentic West Indian flavour.