Cranberry myrtle (Myrteola nummularia)
A little cutie that enhances any gin and tonic
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained, acidic soil
Although this awesome plant was discovered in Tierra del Fuego sphagnum bogs and botanically rendered in watercolor during Captain Cook’s first Pacific voyage on the Endeavor in the late 1700s, it inexplicably has remained on the fringes of mainstream gardening. We think that almost 250 years is a long-enough trial period, and it’s time for this old debutante to make an entrance. One of the hardiest members of the vastly ornamental myrtle family, this is a wiry-stemmed ground cover with glossy, evergreen leaves that color up a bit with the cold of winter. Pixie-white scented flowers are an amusebouche to the entrée of long-lasting showy fruit.
A lot of the fun with cranberry myrtle is simply watching the fruit ripen over the course of 2 to 3 months. There are those poor unenlightened souls not into plants who might think this akin to watching paint dry, but we find it to be high drama. Immature, pale white fruit brighten then blush with pink before finally turning a clear, deep pink, signaling an end to our eager anticipation.
These little round berries are edible, with strong notes of wintergreen, spruce tips, and floral perfume. We can almost imagine the scent being carried on the everpresent winds surrounding Cape Horn. Sitting on your garden patio during a fine Indian summer afternoon, you’ll embrace your good fortune at being at the nexus of a perfect intersection between function and ornamentation as you float 3 of your own locally sourced small fruits in your gin and tonic. The only thing better than this moment would be if the drink was one of FG Editor Steve Aitken’s signature G&Ts.
—Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken grow some of the coolest plants on the planet at Far Reaches Farm in Port Townsend, Washington.
Fine Gardening magazine has graciously allowed us to post some past Plant Profiles we have authored. We have worked with the magazine for a number of years and more recently in the capacity of contributing editors. The folks at the magazine have been a joy to work with and have been very amenable to our occasional quirkiness and interest in unusual plants. One of the things we appreciate about the staff at FG is they are constantly in motion visiting top gardeners and gardens across the country and then enlisting them to write about the plants and design strategies that light them up. It is no small feat to make a publication contain relevance to any part of the country but they pull it off with each issue.