Thursday, October 2, 2014

Paulownia tomentosa is my favorite plant in the garden, this week…


One day early last spring I had a bit of a garden related crisis. Or maybe I should call it a panic attack. As I've written about here before, I realized there were many people visiting my garden in just a few months and I had ripped out an atmosphere/view/reality changing wall of overgrown foliage. The result was not pretty. I needed something “of size” to plant, not a long term solution but a NOW answer. In an impulsive attempt to solve the problem I considered planting a few inexpensive magnolias that friends and I discovered at Means Nursery. $30 and I would have had a forest. I came so close, but in reality I didn’t like the plants. Thank god I didn’t make that mistake. I did however stop at Portland Nursery later that day and spotted a Paulownia tomentosa for only $16.99, I’d always loved their giant leaves. Smart phones are good, and dangerous. A quick look-see and I was swooning over words like these…

“Paulownia tomentosa is the fastest-growing tree in the world” (source)

“…reaching 20' in a single season” (source)

“Grows up to 10' per year in full sun and most soils” (source)

So it was to be mine, here it is (on the right, that straight twig with the handful of leaves at the top) shortly after planting. Photo from a post in May

Here it is as seen from our bedroom window earlier this week. I do wish I'd planted it a little further to the left, to hide that consistently offending paint line. However there are two other slower-growing, but long term plants of size, in that spot.

It certainly can't be accused of having grown 10 ft, or reaching 20ft, but I don't feel robbed. What it has done is nothing short of amazing. How many 4 foot tall trees (at planting) can you stand under just just 4 months later?

The other monster grower which you've no doubt noticed, and I must mention, is the Pennisetum 'Vertigo'...

This once tiny plant has exploded and completely buried my prized variegated daphniphyllum. Every once and awhile I pull back the grass blades to make sure it's still there.

I hate to admit it but I'm actually kind of relieved the pennisetum is not going to live through the winter.

Funny thing though, they haven't all been so successful, I have three and the other two just don't measure up. This one was the first one planted this spring...

And this one was a mid-June addition. Of course neither of these have received the water the one in the back garden has.

But wait, I'm here to talk about the Paulownia! It's stats:
  • also known as the Empress Tree and is native to central and western China
  • hardy in USDA Zones 5-10
  • can reach 30 - 60 feet tall, 30 feet wide
  • can be copiced/pollarded to be kept smaller and increase leaf size (which I intend to do)
  • if allowed to mature (not copiced) will produce fragrent lavendar blooms in the spring
  • prefers sun and regular water
As always please do tell us about the favs in your garden this week...(link to a post if you can, if not just share the excitement in a comment)...

All material © 2009-2014 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

31 comments:

  1. I was tempted earlier this year to plant a Paulownia in my front garden, for its fast-growing and big leaves. But I decided to do annuals instead to fill in. and I'm going to give my evergreen trees a chance to get some size on them over the next several years. Yours does look fabulous though. I've looked and looked here for that Pennisetum, and haven't seen it.

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    1. I bought my fist 'vertigo' of the season at Portland Nursery, then I discovered them at Home Depot (cheap!) and bought a couple more. Maybe next spring check your local orange big box?

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  2. Their growth rate is simply amazing. The large one we have towering over the garden was grown from seed only six/seven years ago. Great choice for that spot!

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    1. Thanks guys! Why don't I remember seeing your tree? (too many other beautiful things to look at perhaps?)

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  3. I love that juvenile foliage, but it's a terribly invasive pest in the Washington, DC area! Hmmmm, maybe we could come up with a "beautiful monsters" meme?

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    1. Yikes, I hope I don't have enough monsters in my garden to carry that theme very far...

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  4. Very tempted to try this -- so lush, so leafy. Would be worried about what would happen if I stopped pruning (says the guy growing 30 running bamboos...)

    Glad to see one big Vertigo for you -- how does 7' tall sound? They're quite easy to overwinter too I've found.

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    1. 7' tall is a bit intimating, at least for where I've planted mine. Your areal photos show your placement is much more appropriate!

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  5. I love this tree too! They are rapid growers but once they hit about 20 feet and start blooming, the growth rate seems to slow down a bit. I have two in my parking strip and one of the joys of spring is seeing those purple flowers cover the tree before the leaves emerge. Happy Friday!

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    1. Two in your parking strip! Just helps to illustrate how big your garden is Peter.

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  6. This can give Clifford some competition in the big-leaf beauty category. I think Whatsitgarden has one, but it doesn't seem to have branched out as much. What's your secret?
    Here's my contribution: http://bannersbyricki.com/archives/3993

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    1. Oh you're right, I wonder if he's feeling it? My secret? I specifically selected one that already had branching.

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  7. We join you this week with our Paulownia, grown from seed, and planted out as a tiny twig 7 years ago. Alternative Eden - Plant of the Week

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    1. So happy you guys joined in with your paulownia story!

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  8. They are fab trees!

    I bought mine back in 2002 and it was planted out in 2003.

    4 foot of growth in the first year is impressive. Wait until it gets its roots out into the soil, it's going to love your warm summers.

    Once my leaves get frosted I will take a shot and send it to you as requested and then you can see how I have cut the trunk over the years :)

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    1. Thanks Adam, I appreciate your remembering our "conversation" and look forward to the photo. Although not your hard freeze.

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  9. I LOVE those big leaves and could probably find a spot where the tree would be useful in screening out neighbors BUT it needs too much water...My favorite this week does not: http://krispgarden.blogspot.com/2014/10/my-favorite-plant-this-week-agave-blue.html

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    1. I'd say I haven't really watered it much but I guess that's not really true. Things in that area were watered pretty well since they are all new to the garden this spring.

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  10. They are attractive trees (I love the flowers) and the enormous juvenile foliage is impressive, but in the eastern USA they are a terribly invasive pest. I have even seen one growing "parasitically" 20 feet up in the crotch of a ginkgo tree!

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    1. That must be quite the sight! (in the ginkgo tree). I've seen a couple random seedlings around town but not many.

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  11. I really like this plant. I´ve always wanted to have it for its tropical feeling with its big leaves. I think you chose pretty well!

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  12. Dan Hinkley coppices his Pawlonia. So what's good enough for Dan Hinkley is surely great for the rest of us.

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  13. That's what I get for late night commenting. I can't spell Paulownia anymore, even when it's in the post title. Sigh.

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    1. Glad to know it's not just me. Commenting late (in bed) with the iPad results in more than a few odd spellings.

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  14. What an impressive tree but I have to join the chorus of it's a really nasty invasive in the southeastern US. I've seen those growing in cracks in the pavement, in gutters, and in what should be nice wilderness areas. The most memorable one was growing in pavement in front of an abandoned quickie mart and it was well over 20 foot tall. That's one tough plant!

    My favorite plant this week is the much tamer Aster (Symphotrichium) October Skies - http://gardenontheedge.blogspot.com/

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    1. One tough plant indeed! Off to see your fav...

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  15. I actually said "wow" out loud. What a difference from that little stick with leaves on top! It looks fantastic from far back in the second picture - the foliage is unlike anything around it.
    My favourite, a new one for me...

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    1. That's part of why I thought it made a good addition to the planting scheme, it's so different!

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