Posts Tagged ‘trees for small gardens’

Populus x candicans ‘Aurora’

June 22, 2010

Some plants I have learnt to love only relatively recently, a case in point being this poplar. Its distinguishing feature is its leaves, which are not variegated in the conventional way – with an edging of white, cream or yellow – but liberally spattered over their entire upper surface with cream spots and blotches.

The leaves of Populus x candicans 'Aurora' are extravagantly splashed with white and cream

Previously I thought they gave the tree a diseased appearance. But having come across an avenue of strictly pollarded specimens in the Haddonstone show garden (www.haddonstone.com) in nearby East Haddon, I now think they are rather pretty.

The pair I acquired only recently have been giving me cause for concern, in that the young leaves are plain green. It is only as they are expanding that they are starting to show their characteristic markings. They repay study, as no two are exactly alike.

Pollarding – a technique that involves ruthlessly cutting back the crown every year (or every other year) – is entirely appropriate therefore. It makes sure that all the leaves are at, or just above, eye level.

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Betula albosinensis ‘Septentrionalis’

January 18, 2010

Betula albosinensis is the Chinese birch, ‘Septentrionalis’ being the form most usually seen in gardens – and the one I grow myself. One of its principal attractions is its bark, which starts to peel away in papery strips at this time of year to reveal a new creamy pink layer beneath. It’s a pleasant job to help things along a bit on a sunny day – but you have to wait until this is starting to happen naturally, or you run the risk of damaging the new bark beneath.

The old, outer layer of bark is now being shed in papery strips

This will be necessary in my case, as, as I mentioned in my newsletter, the outer bark is marked by a bright green lichen. This can only get worse if I leave it. It won’t damage the tree, but it’s unsightly.

A light, airy tree, this birch is an ideal choice for a small garden. With its teardrop-shaped crown it takes up little space laterally and does not cast much shade – besides being delight at all times of year, it tolerates less than ideal growing conditions. As it has to in my garden.

Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’

November 13, 2009

At a Gardeners’ Question Time the other evening, there was a question about the tree Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’, and whether there were any alternatives. I was only too happy to answer this, as this is one of my all-time least favourite plants.

I can see the attraction (just). In spring, the soft yellow of its emerging, fluttering leaves are exactly what’s wanted. But come August, I have had enough of it. Aesthetic considerations apart, it has serious drawbacks. It is often recommended as suitable for small gardens. It emphatically isn’t – not only is it very fast growing, but it will make a huge tree, taller than a house, and the stems are viciously thorny.

Robinia

Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia' has attractive leaves - but little else to recommend it

So why am I talking about it now? A stormy weekend is forecast, and there is a real danger that, if you grow this tree, branches will be ripped from it – they are notoriously brittle, and simply cannot stand up to strong winds. Should this happen, my recommendation would be to cut your losses and get rid of it. If you need something similar to replant, why not try Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Sunburst’ – much more elegant, even if its yellow leaves turn green by mid-summer.