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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera

I should have planted a tulip tree Liriodendron tulipifera in my youth. I've hankered after one ever since I first saw a magnificent specimen in the garden of The Wakes, Gilbert White's home at Selborne in Hampshire, about 40 years ago. It's a bit late to plant one now, because they take a decade to reach flowering size..... but on the other hand there is an old gardening adage that says that you should plant as though you're going to live for ever - so maybe I will. The handsome, cup-shaped flowers are usually carried high up on the tree, so you need binoculars or  telephoto lens to admire them...
... but you can appreciate the unusual leaves from ground level. Each looks as though it has been snipped off at the tip with a pair of scissors. When they first emerge from the buds in spring they're on long stalks and the leaf is folded up the middle, lengthways, so each looks like a miniature flag - until the blade unfolds, rather like a book opening.

Liriodendron tulipifera is native to the eastern United States, where it grows to a height of 180 feet ............ not, then, a tree for a small suburban garden, but space isn't a problem when your botanic garden is digital.