Contributor: Leonie Twentyman Jones
Each year when our Mickey Mouse or Carnival bush (Ochna serrulata) is covered in its new pinkish bronze spring foliage and gorgeous bright yellow flowers, I am reminded of how special this shrub or small tree is and what an asset it is to the garden. The flowers, enjoyed by bees and butterflies, don’t last long but are soon replaced by green berry-like fruits which gradually turn black and are attached to bright red sepals. Soon the entire shrub is covered with little red and black ‘Mickey Mouse’ faces. Fruit-eating birds queue up for the berries, particularly the Red-eyed doves, and disperse the seeds – resulting in young plants popping up all over the garden.
Its leaves resemble those of the wild pear and have serrated edges – hence its Latin name derived from the Greek ochne meaning wild pear and serrulata meaning ‘saw-toothed’.
The shrub is fairly slow growing and doesn’t usually grow beyond two metres, but can easily be trimmed to fit into any garden. It enjoys full sun but can be grown in semi-shade, loves compost, mulch and regular water, but can survive occasional spells of drought. It doesn’t mind wind or being trimmed, so it could be used as a hedge. In fact after being trimmed fairly severely to allow access to house painters last November, our bush seems to have produced even more flowers than before. It also does well as a container plant. This is altogether a most satisfactory shrub which no garden should be without.