I have to use the proper name for clarity because this plant has five names. The most useful name is the New Zealand cranberry (though it is neither a cranberry, nor a native) because that is what it has always been known as in this country. These days you may find it sold as the Chilean guava – its common name internationally though in New Zealand we mean an entirely different fruit when we refer to Chilean guava. In Australia it is the Tazzieberry. Oft-times, it is referred to by its former name of Myrtus ugni.
Whatever. Grow one, especially in families with children. It is a wonderful plant for browsing as one passes and the fruit is ripe right now. The highly aromatic fruit is small and red like a proper cranberry but only in looks. These are sweet little morsels. The plant stays small, about a metre high, and rangy if you don’t clip and shape it. It is an evergreen shrub that you plant at the end of a row in full sun in the vegetable garden. It roots easily from cutting or is cheap to buy. Sometimes you will see it recommended as a substitute for blighted buxus hedging but it isn’t really ideal. It doesn’t like shade, it can get attacked by thrips (especially when in the shade or clipped tightly) and it can develop bare patches. I have seen handsome trained lollipop specimens in a designer potager but they would take regular work to keep looking that good. We just have a longlived and productive plant that hangs about beside the rosemary bush being undemanding, scruffy but fruitful every year. The fruit is sure to be healthier for feeding small children than packet raisins.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.