Category: A-Z of Garden Trees


M.

Malus is a genus of about 30–55 species of small deciduous trees, including the domesticated orchard apple (M. domestica) and varieties of crab apple (including the ‘wild apple’, M. sylvestris). This profile focuses in particular on the crab apples. 

Common name:  Non domestic orchard apples are generally known as crabapples, crab apples, crabs, or wild apples.

Native areas: The genus is native to the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere.

Historical notes: In the past, M. sylvestris was thought to be an important ancestor of the cultivated orchard apples (M. domestica), but these have now been shown to have been originally derived from the central Asian species M. sieversii. However, another recent DNA analysis showed that M. sylvestris has contributed to the ancestry of modern M. domestica very significantly.

Features: Domestic orchard apple trees are typically 4–12 metres tall at maturity, with a dense, twiggy crown. The leaves are 3–10 cm long, alternate, simple, with a serrated margin. The flowers are borne in corymbs, and have five petals, which may be white, pink or red, usually with red stamens that produce copious pollen. Domestic apple trees are large if grown from seed, but small if grafted onto roots (rootstock). There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of domestic apples, resulting in a range of desired characteristics. Crab apples tend to be smaller than domestic apple trees at around 5 – 7 metres tall, with a rounded profile.

Uses:  Crab apples make ideal specimen trees for small gardens. They are popular as compact ornamental trees, providing blossom in Spring and colourful fruit in Autumn. The fruits often persist throughout Winter. Numerous hybrid cultivars have been selected, of which ‘John Downie’, Evereste’ and ‘Red Sentinel’ have gained The Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Award of Garden Merit’ (AGM):

Malus sylvestrisarguably, one of the UK’s prettiest native trees, a small crab apple (or ‘wild apple’) with profuse white flowers, tinged pink in bud, and with good yellow autumn colour. Yellow/ green and occasionally red flushed fruit are a bird’s favourite in the autumn. Ideal for native mixed plantings or shelter belts that provide great low cover for wildlife.

Malus floribundathe ‘Japanese Crab’ is most elegant, with early white/pale blush flowers from crimson buds. However, it is prone to apple scab after flowering, resulting in a rather threadbare crown. Because of this it has tended to be superceded by more disease resistant clones such as ‘Rudolph’ and ‘Evereste’.

Malus ‘Evereste’ – introduced in the early 1980’s this rounded tree has profuse flowers that are red in bud before turning white. The small fruit look like miniature ‘Gala’ and are held on until they are taken by birds after Christmas. The orange-yellow autumn foliage also holds well.

 

 M. ‘John Downie’ – raised in 1875, this is thought by many to be the best fruiting crab. with an irregular oval crown it makes a splendid tree for a small space. White flowers are followed by relatively large, conical-shaped orange-red fruits, which have a food flavour if required for preserves or jelly.

M. x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’– in cultivation since 1959, this profusely fruiting crab is a favourite for gardeners who are looking for winter colour. In some years the clusters of dark red fruits are so numerous that the branches can weigh too heavily so that the crown loses its shape. I have one growing in Old School Garden; it is great alongside other winter interest such as red and orange- stemmed Cornus, and its fruits are useful in Christmas decorations such as front door wreaths. In spring, the red leaves contrast well with its white flowers.

M. x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’ – this well-known crab has been in cultivation for over 60 years and is highly regarded for its profuse display of yellow, marble-sized fruits, which are retained for many weeks. These are preceded by white blossom; a very good ‘all rounder’.

M. ‘Rudolph’ – A Canadian crab developed in the 1950’s, this medium size tree is rather columnar when young, but becomes rounder with maturity. It has leaves which gradually turn from copper-red to bronze-green and rose- pink flowers, which give way to numerous elongated fruits. Autumn leaf colour is clear yellow and it is resistant to scab; a tree which packs a lot of plusses into a small package!

Growing conditions:  Grow Crab apples in moderately fertile soil, though many will thrive on most soils and some are better suited to heavier soils, such as M. sylvestris. They will tolerate partial shade.

Further information:

Wikipedia- Malus

RHS- Malus sylvestris

RHS- Malus ‘Evereste’

RHS- Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’

RHS- Malus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’

Barcham Trees Directory- Malus ‘Rudolph’

Choosing a Crab apple- Daily Telegraph

Old School Gardener

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liquidambar-1440-900Liquidambar is a genus of four species of flowering trees; L. alcalycina; L. formosana; L. orientalis; and L. styraciflua.

Common name:  Common names of all of the species include ‘Sweet Gum’, with additions according to their native regions. Other names include ‘Chang’s Sweetgum’ (L. alcalycina),’Redgum’, ‘Satin Walnut’ and ‘American Storax’. Both the scientific and common names refer to the sweet resinous sap (liquid amber) exuded by the trunk when cut.

Native areas: L. alcalycina is native to central and southern China; L. formosana to China and other parts of S.E. Asia; L. orientalis to south-west Turkey, Greece and Rhodes; L. styraciflua to the eastern USA, Mexico and Honduras.

Historical notes: The genus was much more widespread in the Tertiary age, but has disappeared from Europe due to extensive glaciation in the north and the east-west orientated Alps and Pyrenees, which have served as a blockade against southward migration. It has also disappeared from western North America due to climate change, and also from the unglaciated (but nowadays too cold) Russian far east. L. styraciflua is the most common species used in the U.K. and was introduced from its native USA in the 17th century. It was awarded the RHS ‘Award of Garden Merit’ in 1975.

Features: All Liquidambar are large, deciduous trees, most 25–40 metres (82–131 ft) tall, with palmately 3- to 7-lobed leaves arranged spirally on the stems and length of 12.5 to 20 centimetres (4.9 to 7.9 in), having a pleasant aroma when crushed. Mature bark is grayish and vertically grooved. The flowers are small, produced in a dense globular inflorescence around 1-2 centimetres diameter. The fruit is a woody multiple capsule 2–4 centimetres (0.79–1.57 in) in diameter (popularly called a “gumball”), containing numerous seeds and covered in numerous prickly, woody armatures, possibly to attach to fur of animals. In more northerly climates, sweetgum is among the last of trees to leaf out in the spring, and also among the last of trees to drop its leaves in autumn, turning multiple colors. It is sometimes confused with Maple on account of its similar leaves.

Uses: All of the species provide incredible autumn colour. In the U.K. they are predominately used as specimens – against a fresh green lawn, their foliage colour really stands out – and as woodland trees. L. styraciflua makes a large tree with a pyramidal crown if its central leader is retained. Its attractive, corky bark is a feature at all times of the year, but it is at its most magnificent in the autumn, when it seems to burn with crimson and gold. Suitable for streets, avenues, parks and largish domestic gardens

There are now several cultivars of  L. styraciflua available:

‘Lane Roberts’– reliable in Britain, this is a medium-sized tree (10-15 metres mature height), with a tighter conical habit and larger leaves than the species. Good in groups for mass effect.

‘Manon Variegata’ – a must for those that like variegated trees, the foliage is best in summer, providing excellent contrast against darker leaved, evergreen backgrounds. Medium height (15- 20 metres mature height), it has regular pyramidal form with horizontal lateral branches.

‘Stella’ – with deeply cut, star-like leaves it is of medium height (10-15 metres) and has glorious autumn colour. best in larger gardens.

‘Thea’ – a broad -leaved and late to colour variety, ‘Thea’ grows conically to 15-20 metres tall. Similar to ‘Lane Roberts’ but taller. Distinctive purple foliage in the autumn.

‘Worplesden’ – unlike most other clones, this variety will often bear fruit in the U.K. This is the variety most often favoured for its autumn colour and form, growing to a mature height of 20 metres plus. It has deeply lobed leaves which turn yellow in September and then turn to orange before falling, but the outermost leaves gradually turn to magnificent claret red. The choice for large gardens.

Growing conditions:  L. styraciflua does best in fertile, well-drained soils, and is the hardiest species, tolerating down to -15 degrees C.  The other species can all be grown in the U.K. but vary in hardiness; down to -5 degs C. There are also hardy forms such as the L. formosana Monticola Group, which could be considered for colder areas. Liquidambar should be planted in full sun in neutral to acid soil that is moist but well-drained- it does not thrive in chalky soils. The genus resents transplanting, but if this is unavoidable, prepare by root-pruning a year in advance.

Further information:

Wikipedia- Liquidambar

RHS- Liquidambar styraciflua

Horticulture Week- Liquidambar

Gardener’s World- Liquidambar

Barcham Trees Directory- Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesden’

Old School Gardener

koelreutia pan fastig fruit Koelreuteria is a genus of three species of flowering trees; K. paniculata, K. bipinnata and K. elegans

Common name:  Common names include Golden Rain Tree, Pride of India, China tree, or varnish tree

Native areas: The tree is Native to China and southern and eastern Asia.

Koelreutia elegans subsp. formosa

Koelreutia elegans subsp. formosa

Historical notes: It’s discovery is credited to Pierre d’Incarville, a Jesuit missionary; who sent first seed from China to Russia in 1747. It was classified by Russian botanist Erich Laxmann who named it after Joseph Gottlieb Kolreuter,  from Karlsruhe, Germany, a contemporary and professor of natural history. It was later grown in Europe (by 1753) and reached America in 1811. The variety K. paniculata ‘Fastigiata’ was raised by Kew Gardens from seeds received in 1888 from Shanghai.

Koelreutia bipinnata

Koelreutia bipinnata

Features: Koelreuteria are medium-sized deciduous trees growing to 10–20 m (33–66 ft) tall, with spirally arranged pinnate or bipinnate leaves. Leaves are pinkish in spring, turning yellow in autumn. The flowers are small and yellow, produced in large branched panicles 20–50 cm (8–20 in) long. The fruit is a three-lobed inflated papery capsule or ‘bladder’ 3–6 cm long, containing several hard nut-like seeds 5–10 mm diameter. In some areas, notably parts of eastern North America, they have become invasive. the variety K. paniculata ‘Fastigiata’ tends to be shorter than the species (5-10 metres tall) and has a narrow columnar shape.

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Uses: Koelreuteria are popularly grown as ornamental trees in temperate regions all across the world because of the aesthetic appeal of their flowers, leaves and seed pods. Koelreuteria are commonly used as focal points in landscape design.  Several cultivars have been selected for garden planting, including ‘Fastigiata’ with a narrow crown, and ‘September Gold’,  flowering in late summer. The seeds are edible when roasted, but are not commonly consumed. The variety K. paniculata ‘Fastigiata’ is a good choice for restricted spaces and excellent as a specimen tree in a park. The clusters of small yellow flowers which it produces in July and August are popular with bees and are followed by lantern-shaped fruits in the autumn.

Koelreutia paniculata 'Fastigiata' growing at Barcham Trees

Koelreutia paniculata ‘Fastigiata’ growing at Barcham Trees

 Growing conditions:  Koelreuteria grow in nutritionally poor soil including: clay, sand, well drained, alkaline, loam; they require full sun but not a lot of watering, with a moderate aerosol salt tolerance. They tolerate wind, air pollution, salt, heat, and drought and grow at a moderate rate, but are sometimes fast growers. Koelreuteria produce seeds that are blown away and get germinated and this might result in the growing of more trees next to the original one.’Fastigiata’ does best in dry, calcareous soils and in a reasonably sheltered position, such as an urban courtyard garden.

Fruit and flowers of K. paniculata

Fruit and flowers of K. paniculata

Further information:

Wikipedia- Koelreuteria

Wikipedia- Koelreuteria paniculata

Wikipedia- Kolreuteria bipinnata

RHS- Koelreuteria paniculata

Barcham Trees Directory- Koelreuteria paniculata

Barcham trees directory-  Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Fastigiata’

Old School Gardener

walnut tree in gardenThe Walnut tree genus (juglans) has 21 species, but there are two main species in common garden or landscape use; the Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) and English (or Common or Persian)Walnut (Juglans regia). I’ve recently written about the poison they both contain and what this means for growing other plants underneath or nearby.

Common name: ‘Walnut’  or Black/English/Common/Persian Walnut. The word walnut derives from the Germanic wal– and Old English wealhhnutu, literally “foreign nut”, wealh meaning “foreign”. The genus name “Juglans” comes from Latin jūglans, meaning ‘walnut, walnut tree’; jūglans in turn is a contraction of Jōvis glans, ‘nut of [the god] Jupiter’

1280px-WalnutsNative areas: The English Walnut (J. regia) originated in Persia, and the Black Walnut (J. nigra) is native to eastern North America.

Historical notes: The Black Walnut was introduced to Europe in 1629 from north America, whereas the English Walnut is thought to have been grown in Britian since Roman times. The worldwide production of walnuts has been increasing rapidly in recent years, with the largest increase coming from Asia. The husks of the black walnut Juglans nigra are used to make an ink for writing and drawing. Walnut ink has good archival properties, and was used by several great artists including Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt. Walnut husks are used as a brown dye for fabric. Walnut dyes were used in classical Rome and in medieval  Europe for dyeing hair. The U.S. Army used ground walnut shells for the cleaning of aviation parts because it was inexpensive and non-abrasive. However, an investigation of a fatal helicopter crash in 1982 (in Mannheim, Germany) revealed that walnut grit clogged an oil port, leading to the accident and to the discontinuation of walnut shells as a cleaning agent.

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Features: The Black Walnut is of high flavour, but due to its hard shell and poor hulling characteristics it is not grown commercially for nut production. The commercially produced walnut varieties are nearly all hybrids of the English Walnut.  Walnuts are late to grow leaves, typically not until more than halfway through the spring. The blossoms also normally appear in spring. The male cylindrical catkins are developed from leafless shoots from the past year; they are about 10 cm (3.9 in) in length and have a large number of little flowers. Female flowers appear in a cluster at the peak of the current year’s leafy shoots. Both main species contain a chemical called “juglone” which can be poisonous (or allelopathic) to other plants. This can be a particular issue for growing other plants underneath a Black Walnut.

Juglans_regia_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-081Uses: As garden trees, Walnuts have some drawbacks, in particular the falling nuts and the release of Juglone.However, they are grown and both species make a stately subject for parkland and avenue plantings, or as specimen trees where space allows. The English Walnut develops a broad crown at maturity (and a height of 15- 20 metres). It also has delightfully aromatic young foliage, from which a wine can be made, followed by a crop of delicious nuts. It is smooth barked when young. Both species are also grown for their timber. The Black Walnut is fast growing and was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 2002. It can  reach 20 metres or more in height and makes a large tree with a pyramidal crown. It produces an abundance of nuts over a long period, but they are rather difficult to extract from their very hard shells. It is rough barked from a young age.

 Growing conditions: Walnuts are light-demanding species that benefit from protection from wind. Walnuts are also very hardy against drought. Walnuts grow on most soils but the English Walnut does not favour water logged conditions. The Black Walnut favours deep loam. Walnut trees are easily propagated from the nuts. Seedlings grow rapidly on good soils.

Further information:

Wikipedia- Walnut

Wikipedia – Juglans

GQT: Underneath the Walnut Tree- what to plant.

Barcham trees directory-  Juglans regia

Old School Gardener

ilex aquifoliumIlex, or the holly genus, is a genus of 400 to 600 species of flowering plants in the family Aquifoliaceae, and the only living genus in that family. The species are evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, and climbers from tropics to temperate zones worldwide. In Europe the genus is represented by a single species, the classically named holly, Ilex aquifolium.

ilex aquifolium botanicalCommon name: ‘Holly’  or ‘Common Holly’- the name “holly” in common speech refers to Ilex aquifolium, specifically stems with berries used in Christmas decoration. By extension, “holly” is also applied to the whole genus. The origin of the word “holly” is considered a reduced form of Old English hole(ġ)n, Middle English Holin, later Hollen.

Native areas: Ilex aquifolium is native to western and southern Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia.

Historical notes: Ilex in Latin means the holm-oak or evergreen oak (Quercus ilex). Despite the Linnaean classification of Ilex as holly, as late as the 19th century in Britain, the term Ilex was still being applied to the oak as well as the holly – possibly due to the superficial similarity of the leaves.

Ilex aquifolium

Ilex aquifolium

Features: Holly is an evergreen, conical tree growing to 5-10 metres tall. The leaves are 5–12 cm long and 2–6 cm broad; they are evergreen, lasting about five years, and are dark green on the upper surface and lighter on the underside, oval, leathery, shiny, and about 5 to 9 cm long. In the young and in the lower limbs of mature trees, the leaves have three to five sharp spines on each side, pointing alternately upward and downward, while leaves of the upper branches in mature trees lack spines.

The flowers are white, four-lobed, and pollinated by bees. Holly is dioecious, meaning that there are male plants and female plants. The sex cannot be determined until the plants begin flowering, usually between 4 and 12 years of age. In male specimens, the flowers are yellowish and appear in axillary groups. In the female, flowers are isolated or in groups of three and are small and white or slightly pink, and consist of four petals and four sepals partially fused at the base. The ‘berry’ fruit is a red drupe, about 6–10 mm in diameter, a bright red or bright yellow, which matures around October or November.

Several varieties and clones are available with different features such as variegated foliage with creamy or pink tinged edges and different leaf shapes. Some of these are:

Ilex aquifolium ‘Alaska’– dark green foliage and bright red berries, can be grown as a standard/ specimen or screening.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’– with an Award of Garden Merit, this variety has spiny leaves edged with white and plenty of berries, young leaves tinged with pink.

Ilex aquifolium ‘J.C. Van Tol’– a self pollinating holly and possibly the best green-leaved holly available. Dark green almost sineless leaves witha good show of autumn berries. Also awarded an AGM, it is tolerant of shade.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Pyramidalis’– fast growing, self pollinating. Another AGM winner, it retains its pyramidal shape if pruned to retain it’s leader.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Queen’– this is a dense small evergreen tree or shrub with purple young shoots and pink-tinged young leaves. Mature leaves spiny, dark green with a broad cream margin. Flowers small, white – this variety is, despite it’s name, a male!

Other Ilex varieties that are not part of the aquifolium species include:

Ilex castaneifolia– the ‘sweet chestnut leaved’ holly this is a fast grower, AGM awarded and produces a large tree of conical habit and has red berries in abundance.

Ilex x ‘Dragon Lady’– one of the Meserve Hybrid hollies this one has vivid green leaves and attractive spines that contrast well with the large red berries in the autumn.

Ilex x ‘Nellie Stevens’– this hybrid (of Ilex aquifolium and Ilex cornata) has smooth glossy leaves which contrast well with the orange-red berries.

Ilex x altaclarensis ‘Golden King’ – one of the best variegated hollies, this AGM winner is tolerant of coastal conditions, and is slow-growing. The opposite to the variety ‘Silver Queen’, this time, despite its name it is a female!

Uses:  One of the most evocative and best-loved of all trees; the Common holly is beautiful in its simplicity and brings cheer at the darkest time of the year. It provides year-round interest, but is particularly attractive in autumn and winter. great for gardens, it only retains its spiky leaves within the first ten – fifteen feet of height in the tree, as after this it suffers no predation so has no need of a thorny defence system! use as an under storey or edge fo woodland tree  (as here at Old School Garden), as a specimen (especially those with interesting foliage), for hedging/ screening or as a structural element in mixed borders to provide all-year round interest. Can also be topiarised to provide simple but effective shapes in formal settings.

 Growing conditions: Holly is very tolerant of shade and prefers well-drained soils.

Clipped hollies at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

Clipped hollies at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

Further information:

Wikipedia- Ilex

Wikipedia- Ilex aquifolium

RHS- Ilex aquifolium

RHS- Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Queen’

Barcham trees directory- Ilex genus

7 plants for Winter Wonder

Old School Gardener

Hamamelis_flowersOK, a bit of a stretch with this entrant, as Hamamelis is more often a shrub rather than a tree, but there don’t seem to be any garden trees with a botanical name beginning with ‘H’ (go on, prove me wrong)!

Common name: ‘Witch – Hazel’ and occasionally for the North American species, ‘Winterbloom’

Native areas: A native of North America (3 species- ovalis, virginiana and vernalis) Japan (japonica) and China (mollis).

Historical notes: The name ‘Witch’ in witch-hazel has its origins in the middle english word ‘wiche’, from the Old English ‘wice’, meaning “pliant” or “bendable”. “Witch hazel” was used in England as a synonym for Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra) American colonists seem to have simply extended the familiar name to the new shrub they found in their new home. The use of the twigs as divining rods, just as hazel twigs were used in England, may also have influenced the “witch” part of the name. The plant-hunter Charles Maries collected Hamamelis mollis for Veitch Nurseries from China  in 1879. It languished in nursery rows for years until it was noticed, propagated and put on the market in 1902.

Hamamelis in Colonial Park Arboretum and Gardens
Hamamelis in Colonial Park Arboretum and Gardens

Features: The witch-hazels are deciduous shrubs or (rarely) small trees growing to 3–8 metres tall, rarely to 12 metres tall. The leaves are alternately arranged, oval, with a smooth or wavy margin. The genus name, Hamamelis, means “together with fruit”, referring to the simultaneous occurrence of flowers with the maturing fruit from the previous year. H. virginiana blooms in September-November while the other species bloom from January-March. Each flower has four slender strap-shaped petals 1–2 centimetres long, pale to dark yellow, orange, or red. The fruit is a two-part capsule 1 centimetre long.

Uses:  Witch Hazels are popular ornamental shrubs, grown for their clusters of rich yellow to orange-red flowers which begin to expand in the autumn as or slightly before the leaves fall, and continue throughout the winter. Hamamelis virginiana is rarely seen in the nursery trade except for woodland/wildlife restoration projects and native plant enthusiasts. Much more common is H. mollis, which has bright red flowers that bloom in late winter instead of the yellow blossoms of H. virginiana which tend to be lost among the plant’s autumnal foliage. Numerous cultivars have been selected for use as garden shrubs, many of them derived from the hybrid H. x intermedia ‘Rehder’ (H. japonica × H. mollis). Jelena and Robert de Belder of Arboretum Kalmthout, selecting for red cultivars, found three: the first, with bronze flowers, was named ‘Jelena’; the next, with red flowers, was named ‘Diane’ (the name of their daughter); the last, with deep red flowers, was called ‘Livia’ (the name of their granddaughter). The cultivar ‘Arnold Promise’ (mature height 3- 5 metres) is recognised as one of the best yellow-flowering Witch – Hazels, with magnificent yellow flowers that contrast with the red inners, which sometimes last as long as two months without fading.

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Growing conditions: An open, sunny position is best, as plants become straggly in shade, although they do tolerate partial shade. Avoid exposed and windy positions. Young witch hazels can be damaged by hard frosts, so avoid frost pockets, or be prepared to protect plants with a couple of layers of horticultural fleece in their first few years if there is a hard winter or late spring frost. Witch hazels need free-draining soil conditions with an adequate supply of moisture. A light soil with plenty of added organic matter, such as well-rotted manure or compost, is best. They will tolerate heavy or clay soils if they are improved by digging in organic matter and by ensuring good drainage. Acid to neutral soil pH is preferred (pH 4.5-6.5). Witch hazels may tolerate deep soils over chalk, with plenty of added organic matter. If they become chlorotic (yellow) because of the high pH, then treatment with a chelated (sequestrated) iron fertiliser, ideally one that also contains manganese, can help. They are unlikely to tolerate shallow chalky soils.

Hamamelis virginiana
Hamamelis virginiana

Further information:

Wikipedia- Witch – Hazel

RHS- Hamamelis

Barcham trees directory- Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’

7 plants for Winter Wonder

Old School Gardener

gleditsia triacanthos matureI bought a Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Sunburst’ some years ago as a young plant through the post. It’s now about 2 metres tall and beginning to find its feet in Old School Garden. I love its bright yellow foliage which is a great contrast to the maroon foliage of plants like Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’.

Common name: ‘Honey Locust’ or ‘Thorny Locust’

Native areas: A deciduous tree native to central North America,  it is mostly found in the moist soil of river valleys ranging from southeastern South Dakota to New Orleans and central Texas, and as far east as eastern Massachusetts. It was introduced into Britain in 1700, with the cultivar ‘Sunburst’ introduced in the 1950’s.

Historical notes: The Honey Locust, despite its name, is not a significant honey plant. The name derives from the sweet taste of the legume pulp, which was used for food by Native American people, and can also be fermented to make beer. The long pods, which eventually dry and ripen to brown or maroon, are surrounded in a tough, leathery skin that adheres very strongly to the pulp within. The pulp—bright green in unripe pods—is strongly sweet, crisp and succulent in unripe pods. Dark brown tannin-rich beans are found in slots within the pulp. Honey locusts produce a high quality, durable wood that polishes well, but the tree does not grow in sufficient numbers to support a bulk industry; however, a niche market exists for honey locust furniture. It is also used for posts and rails since it takes a long time to rot. In the past, the hard thorns of the younger trees have been used as nails! The tree has been used in traditional Native American medicine.

Gleditsia triacanthos 'sunburst' in Old School Garden- with Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker' in front and Monarda 'Cambridge Scarlet' and Crocosmia 'Lucifer'
Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Sunburst’ in Old School Garden– with Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’ in front and Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ and Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’

Features: A large, oval and elegant tree growing to 20 metres plus and quick growing. It’s leaves resemble fronds and when mature, it looks most striking with its shiny, long seed pods. Leaves are bright green turning to golden yellow in autumn. The variety ‘Sunburst’ has bright yellow foliage in early summer and this turns greener as the season progresses.

Uses:  A wonderful choice for heavily polluted environments prone to vandalism and a good choice for parks and industrial areas, it is also a great garden tree, doing well on most types of soil. It’s fast growth rate and ease of transplanting make it a good choice for new gardens where shade or a feature is wanted relatively quickly. The tree needs careful handling though, because of its thorns (however, most cultivars are thornless). The cultivar ‘Sunburst” has gained the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM). This cultivar grows to 15-20 metres and has a rounded, rather spreading form, a good substitute for the rather more damage-prone Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’.

Gleditsia triacanthos - autumn colour
Gleditsia triacanthos – autumn colour

Growing conditions: The cultivars (e.g. ‘Sunburst’, ‘Skyline’, ‘Inermis’) are popular ornamental plants. It tolerates urban conditions, compacted soil, road salt, alkaline soil, heat and drought. The popularity is in part due to the fact that it transplants so easily, its fast growth rate and tolerance of poor site conditions. It is also great where shade is wanted quickly, such as new parks or housing developments, and in disturbed and reclaimed environments, such as mine tailings. It is resistant to gypsy moths but is defoliated by another pest, the Mimosa Webworm. Spider mites, cankers and galls are also a problem with some trees.

Gleditsia triacanthos 'Sunburst'
Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Sunburst’

Further information:

Wikipedia- Gleditsia triacanthos

RHS- Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Sunburst’

Barcham trees directory

Old School Gardener

figs fruit

A Fig fruit

I have a fig in the courtyard here at Old School Garden, growing in a pot and ‘liberated’ as a young transplant when pruning a rather older and very vigourous example at our local primary school a few years ago. I remember gathering it when I helped to plant up the ‘Nectar Bar’ and ‘Eco Park’ there in 2007. Today our tree, along with a Grapevine, Olive and Peach, contributes a mediterranean touch to the space, and with last winter and spring’s mild and wet conditions it has put on some wonderful growth, including a crop of handsome and promising looking fruit. I can’t recall ever really tasting a ripe fig, but my recent experience of fig-flavoured yoghurt is tempting me to try to harvest some this year!

Common name: ‘Common Fig’

Native areas: A native of the Middle East and Western Asia.

Historical notes: The edible fig is one of the first plants that was cultivated by humans, predating the domestication of Wheat, Barley and Legumes, and may thus be the first known instance of agriculture. Figs were also a common food source for the Romans. The fruits were used, among other things, to fatten geese for the production of a precursor of foie gras. In the 16th century, Cardinal Reginald Pole introduced fig trees to Lambeth Palace in London.

An old Fig tree, grown under cover

An old Fig Tree

Features: A round-headed tree, if properly located and pruned, otherwise it can develop a mass of straggly growth (e.g if grown up against a wall and left untrained and its roots unrestricted). Mature height of 3 – 5 metres, it is grown for both its attractive, deeply lobed foliage, and fruits. Two crops of figs are potentially produced each year; the first or breba crop, develops in the spring on last year’s shoot growth. In contrast, the main fig crop develops on the current year’s shoot growth and ripens in the late summer or autumn. The main crop is generally superior in both quantity and quality to the breba crop.

Uses:  It makes a small and elegant tree that is perfect for gardens where space is limited. Grow in a container or open ground. The cultivar ‘Brown Turkey’ has gained the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

58571_Ficus_carica_LGrowing conditions: The fig likes dry, sunny, warm, sheltered sites, where the soil is dry or very well-drained. It thrives in both sandy and rocky soil. As the sun is really important it is better to avoid shade. Excessive growth has to be limited to promote the fruiting. This can be achieved by pruning to achieve the desired shape and encouraging fruiting branches and also by restricting root development; by growing in a container or in an enclosed bay in open ground where brick walls or other barriers keep the roots in check. It is also often grown up against a south-facing wall to maximise fruiting potential. I’ve had experience of pruning back hard a few old unkempt examples successfully in spring; alternatively, phase your pruning over a number of years to lessen the visual impact and reduce stress on the plant.  Some varieties are more adapted to harsh and wet climates. It is remarkably pest and disease resistant. 

Further information:

Wikipedia- Ficus

RHS- Figs

RHS- Ficus carica ‘Brown Turkey’

How to grow Figs- Daily Telegraph

Barcham trees directory

Old School Gardener

Picture by Bob Osborn

Picture by Bob Osborn

The ‘E’ in my A-Z of garden trees is a star autumn performer and can also be grown as a deciduous shrub. As I write this, my own (shrub) example of Euonymus (the alatus or ‘winged spindle’ species) here in Old School Garden has just lost all of it’s new leaves – possibly a virus or scale attack? Still, I have gathered some seeds from hedgerow examples of europaeus and the small seedlings seem to be doing well, so maybe I shall- in a few years- have a replacement or two!

Common name: ‘Spindle’, ‘European Spindle’, ‘Common Spindle’

Native areas: native to much of Europe, where it inhabits the edges of forest, hedges and gentle slopes, tending to thrive on nutrient-rich, chalky and salt-poor soils. It is a decduous shrub or small tree.

Historical notes: European spindle wood is very hard, and can be cut to a sharp point- it was used in the past for making wool spindles (used to spin the wool into thread).

Features: Euonymus europaeus grows to 3–6 m (10–20 ft) tall, rarely 10 m (33 ft), with a stem up to 20 cm (8 in) in diameter. The leaves are opposite, lanceolate to elliptical, 3-8 cm long and 1-3 cm broad, with a finely serrated edge. Leaves are dark green in summer. Autumn colour ranges from yellow-green to reddish-purple, depending on environmental conditions. Flowers are produced in late spring and are insect-pollinated; they are rather inconspicuous, small, yellowish green and grow in cymes of of 3-8 together. The capsular fruit ripens in autumn, and is red to purple or pink in colour and approximately 1-1.5 cm wide (opening, when ripe, to reveal orange seed cases).

Uses:  Spindle is a popular ornamental in gardens and parks due to its bright pink or purple fruits and attractive autumn colouring, in addition to its resistance to frost and wind. It has been introduced to North America where it has become an invasive species in some areas. Grown as a shrub it is useful for hedging and screens, is relatively low maintenhance and as a tree looks good in ‘Cottage’, informal and wildlife gardens.

The cultivar ‘Red Cascade’ has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).This is a small arching tree (mature height 3-5 metres), and produces an abundance of rosy red fruits which open to reveal vivid orange seed cases. The foliage display in autumn is fantastic with green leaves turning to rich red by November. This variety is one of the best forms for gardens, parks and resticted spaces.

Growing conditions: Grow in well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. propagate by sed or semi-hardwood cuttings. A good choice for even chalky soils, it will thrive in most soils, but avoid waterlogged ground. Prone to caterpillars and vine weevils and may suffer from powdery mildew.

640px-Illustration_Euonymus_europaea0Further information:

Wikipedia

RHS- Euonymus europaeus

Barcham trees directory- ‘Red Cascade’

How to grow Euonymus europaeus ‘Red Cascade’

Old School Gardener

Picture from 'Voice in the Garden Blogspot'
Picture from ‘Voice in the Garden Blogspot’

In researching this article I’ve solved a little mystery. A couple of years ago I ‘liberated’ some curious looking fruits from a tree in a grand garden in Cornwall I was visiting. It was autumn and the leaves were a beautiful muted rusty golden colour. I couldn’t identify it at the time and the three fruits have been sitting on my desk ever since both intruiging and annoying me!

Well it turns out that they are the fruits of Davidia involucrata, better known as the ‘Paper Handkerchief’  or ‘Dove Tree’ because of its large white bracts enclosing the flower (and followed by the fruit). It looks like it may be a long and fiddly business to grow from seed, but I think I’ll have a go!

Common name: ‘Paper Handkerchief’ or ‘Dove’ Tree

Native areas: originally from damp woods in south West China, it is extremely endangered in the wild and also rare in cultivation.

Historical notes: discovered by Pere David in 1869 and introduced in 1904. It first flowered in 1911 on Veitch’s Coombe Wood nursery.

Features: a broadly conical, very beautiful tree that is (eventually) fast growing and of medium to large height, growing to 10-15 metres at maturity. However, it is difficult to grow from a young age and seems to thrive once it gets beyond 2-3 metres tall. Foliage and habit are similar to the Lime.The sharply toothed leaves are heart shaped to around 15 cms long, are pinkish in spring turning bright green above, densely hairy beneath in summer, then turn to gold in the autumn. The flowers are tiny but it is the large white flower bracts up to about 15 cms long that put on a great show in late spring. The fruits are rounded and green, up to 1.5 inches across, later ripening to brown (like the 3  I have here!). The attractive bark is orange brown and peels vertically in flakes.

Uses:  very good in parkland or as a specimen and does best in a sheltered position. Sometimes the cultivar ‘Vilmoriana’ is specified, but it appears to be very similar to the parent species.

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Growing conditions: Davidia grows best in a sheltered spot in deep fertile soil. It responds to light summer pruning. Growing tips can frost off if it is subjected to icy winds and invariably the best specimens are seen nestled away in a comfy sheltered spot. They also respond well to fertilizers with lots of potassium. They are best trained to a central leader when young with lower branches gradually removed. Propagation is from seed sown immediately upon ripening, germination can take up to 1.5 years but seedlings grow fast. It can also be grown from semi-ripe cuttings taken during late summer. Insect pest and disease problems rarely occur and are not serious.

Further information:

Wikipedia

RHS- Davidia involucrata

Barcham trees directory

Old School Gardener

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