living buddies are at danger. In 1987, I planted a line of 4 Sorbus hupehensis, still among my top choices as a specimen tree for gardens. In a less torrid year this Chinese rowan tree has pinnate blue-grey leaves and, in autumn, a fine show of pink berries. Since I planted mine, the favoured range is hupehensis Pink Pagoda, a selected form whose berries are a richer shade of pink. I like my old buddies, whose berries are a paler pink turning even paler if the birds do not remove them. After 35 years they are about 20ft high and scarcely 10ft wide, an outstanding option for a mini-avenue. They show a pretty length of bare trunk prior to the branches begin.After bucketing, I am rereading The Dry Garden by Beth Chatto, first published in 1978, 2 years after a fearsome
British drought. She explains how she planted a number of Sorbus hupehensis when she initially created her dry long border. They”have looked rather distressed sometimes “, she remarks, in 3 dry summer seasons considering that. She mulched them greatly in early spring and found”they stood the 1976 dry summer season quite well”. She then expresses an interest in seeing how they will continue when they get their roots well down.Forty-four years later on, I can inform her, my own are now deep rooted but their leaves have sweltered and dropped however. They have actually had to be motivated by the bath-to-bucket treatment
. Nevertheless, their leafless stems are a living green when scratched. When once again they will endure, so I still rate them extremely for gardeners. If they are too big for your area, I likewise value Sorbus vilmorinii, another exceptional tree which reaches only about 10-12ft. Regardless of the ban, I have spared another great tree a bucketing. The paulownia may well be the tree of the future. It grows very fast and has big green leaves which open late in spring.
It has actually been flowering more profusely in Britain now that winter seasons are milder. In late May and early June there is every possibility of seeing its lavender-purple flowers in southern England. They appear like stumpy foxgloves and are one of the late spring glories of the great garden at Ninfa, near Rome, where big paulownia trees grow on the far side of the primary stretch of water.Paulownias grow so rapidly to about 40ft that in Britain their trunk and branches are vulnerable to splitting in a winter gale. They likewise have the drawback of coming late into leaf, as late as a mulberry tree in early June.
An artful way of treating a paulownia in a smaller area is to cut it yearly down within a few inches of its base each spring and leave it to send out up a new stem about 6-8ft high on which the leaves are much bigger, like large green dishcloths.They make a vibrant feature in a mixed planting, bringing an exotic appearance without the threat of being ruined by winter frost. The excellent garden planter, Lanning Roper, used to grow boldly pruned paulownias in this way in his London garden, a sanctuary of ingenuity and appeal
in the 1960s. In Japan, the paulownia is likewise a tree of the past. It has a most distinguished literary ancestry. The Paulownia court is the setting for the first chapter in that inexhaustible fiction, the Tale of Genji, a masterpiece of the 11th century. Genji’s mother is the lady of the Paulownia court in the emperor’s
palace. She is not well born, but her boy is remarkably stunning and is for that reason the emperor’s favourite, exposing her to the spite of his other concubines. Paulownias became referred to as empress trees as a result: their hard wood was used to make musical instruments but also chests for clothing. When a daughter was born, moms and dads in some cases planted a paulownia tree so that its wood would make a chest for her kimonos when she wed and left home. If a paulownia is so expressive, why not water it? It has an important, however underemphasised, quality. It thrusts a big tap root down into the soil which acts like a water pump, drawing water not just into itself and the leaves above but also into the surrounding soil.
I learnt this helpful reality from a fine collection of hydrangeas in Normandy whose owner checked out Japan and understood that he could plant happy hydrangeas very near to the trunks of water-pumping paulownias. They grew there even in hot summer seasons and, in replica, I planted evergreen abelias around a big paulownia in my own garden. They are all doing well in this dry year.So are particular privets. Garden enthusiasts watch out for them as they associate them with rather uninteresting hedges round suburban front gardens, but those oval-leaved hedging ranges are only one corner of a much bigger household. As a big shrub or small tree, I similar to the shiny-leaved evergreen Chinese privet, Ligustrum lucidum, which reaches about 12ft in 10 years. It has white flowers and makes an absolutely rounded feature, each branch growing out so that the leaves can reach the light.Ligustrum lucidum is completely durable and never ever in need of bucket-watering. There is an excellent avenue of it in Gloucester Gardens at Cockfosters, an end point of London’s Piccadilly Underground line. In the drought of summertime 2003 I took a round ticket to check it. The sight of a glossy green tree, neither wilting nor dropping leaves, is most heartening.Find out about our newest stories first– follow @FTProperty on Twitter or @ft_houseandhome on Instagram