NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

A Gardening Journal

Pollarding the Chinese Tulip Trees

Three pollarded Chinese tulip trees front a block of ten-foot-high yew hedge. Chinese tulip trees? Leaves of this Asian tulip-tree cousin are gigantic—and burgundy when young. Pollarded? Cutting young stems back to their stubs stimulates regrowth that is particularly eager and colorful, while also keeping it at eye level.

Liriodendron chinense 021218 before pollarding 320

Colorful? May to September, you'll see. Eager? These straight-up stems are last year's growth, and some of them are over seven feet long.

Three pollarded Chinese tulip trees front a block of ten-foot-high yew hedge. Chinese tulip trees? The Asian cousin of our native Liriodendron tulipiferaLiriodenron chinense may lack the former's showy flowers, but its leaves are gigantic: to nearly twenty inches, which is as long as from my fingertip to my elbow. And when young, they are sumptuously—no, erotically—suffused with burgundy.

 

Pollarded? Cutting young stems back to their stubs stimulates regrowth that is particularly eager and colorful, while also keeping it at eye level. Eager? Below, the straight-up stems formed in response to last year's pollarding. Some of them are over seven feet.

 

Liriodendron chinense 021218 before pollarding 640

 

With all but the bottom inch of so or last year's stems cut off, new growth this year has no choice but to begin again from about where it began last year. So, the trees grow neither out of hand nor out of view. For scale, note that their trunks are about four feet high, while the top of the yew hedge is just over ten. Last year, only the very tips of the tulip trees' tallest young stems were above the hedge, and that didn't happen until late in the growing season. If permitted to reach free-range maturity, though, Chinese tulips could top a hundred feet. Short of a Jetsons' jetpack, how could you enjoy the details—and there are plenty—of the foliage that might, then, not begin until fifty feet above ground?

 

Pollarded, these trees always stay about the size of the block of yew hedge—the size of shrubs, in other words—keeping all that glorious foliage in close view.

 

The pollarding takes just minutes; I tend to do it the same time I'm pruning the block of Taxus x media 'Hicksii'. 

 

Liriodendron chinense 021218 after pollarding overall 640

 

In the picture below, you can see that there are buds aplenty just waiting for the arrival of consistently warm weather before bursting forth into new stems and foliage.

 

Liriodendron chinense 021218 buds 640

 

Although horribly cold weather may well return, these vegetative buds are already green: Spring is nowhere in sight in January, but by February, plants are getting ready for its return.

 

Counterintuitively, these tiny and, seemingly, cruelly exposed buds are more cold-proof because of their size, not less. They are small, in part, because their structural components still have a low percentage of moisture. They are, literally, uninflated with watery sap and, so, are too dry to freeze even when temperatures plunge. Only when temperatures are solidly above freezing—May in my garden—will they begin developing juicy new stems bearing full-sized leaves. Such growth is more like multi-chambered balloons of water, and would be fatally frozen by even a slight frost.

 

Liriodendron chinense 021218 buds finger 640

 

Come Spring, these growth points will quickly prove why a common generic name for an eager new stem is a shoot. Laid out on the two-by-three stones of the terrace's sideboard, you can easily see that cut stems formed last year were often over six feet in length, and sometimes nearly eight. 

 

Liriodendron chinense 021218 stems 640

 

As spring returns, I'll Instagram a shot or two of the emerging leaves; their stunning interplay of shades of burgundy and acid-green is unique.

 

 

 

Here's how to grow Chinese tulip tree, plus shots of its ravishing young foliage.

 

Here's how marvelous these pollards of Chinese tulip tree are in concert with their near neighbors, Siberian cow parsnip and purple osmanthus.

 

 
 
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