Possibly the perfect shade tree or large shrub for small gardens, the Gordonia (Gordonia axillaris) bears unsurpassed white flowers and glossy, dark green leaves that develop red tips in winter.
Gordonias will grow 5 metres tall and wide if left unpruned, with a beautiful, dome-shaped canopy. Its large, crinkly-petalled flowers are borne over a long period from autumn into spring and its orange-brown bark is another beautiful feature. Their white blooms (about 10cm across) tend to fall from the tree intact with their prominent, egg-yolk yellow stamens facing upward. The resulting effect has been likened to the appearance of fried eggs lying around the tree and has earned the plant its unglamorous common name, ‘the fried egg plant’.
Gordonias are easy to grow and are practically pest and disease-free. They well suited to a range of climatic zones including sub-tropical, Mediterranean and cool-temperate.
Like their close relative, the camellia, gordonias enjoy a slightly acidic, well-drained soil and can be grown in full sun or part shade. Gordonias are slow-growing when young, so buy a more advanced plant if you want a tree in a hurry. One advantage of their slow growth is that they are easily kept to a small size if desired, with gentle pruning. If you want a bushy shrub rather than a small tree, tip prune lightly after flowering. Otherwise, pruning is unnecessary.
In spring, apply a plant food like Searles Azalea, Camellia & Gardenia Food, mulch well and keep the soil moist when young.