Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

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.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Bark of the Variegated White Mulberry

morus-alba-paper-dollstrunk-640

 

Mulberry is a weird tree.  Normally, smaller twigs are more colorful than thicker ones; time and again, younger bark is more fun than older.  Not with mulberry.  The trunk on the right is textured and colorful.  The young branch on the left is smooth and dull.  How to help this tree have more fun?

 

You can see, below, that the tree also needs a stern hand overall.  Branches shoot outward every which way.  And the bark gets less and less interesting the higher up you look.  The main trunk, right at ground level?  That's the most colorful portion.

 

morus-alba-paper-dolls-overall-640

 

This cultivar is a puzzle when in leaf, too.  Some leaves of 'Paper Dolls' are vividly splashed and sectored in white and pale green.  But only some.  Is there a way to encourage more variegation, a more appealing habit, and more colorful "thick-trunk" bark?  That would be a trifecta of improvement.

 

morus-alba-paper-dollsleaves-640

 

See "How to handle it" below for the experiments I'll be launching in Spring.  And stay tuned for the results.

 

 

Here's how to grow this challenging tree:


Latin Name

Morus alba 'Paper Dolls'

Common Name

Variegated White Mulberry

Family

Moraceae, the Mulberry family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous bush

Hardiness

Zone 6 - 9.

Habit

Broadly upright bush

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

Full size: Twelve feet tall and wide.

Texture

Loose.

Grown for

its foliage: The leaves are as variable as those of sassafras, sometimes with no lobes, just one, or several.  They can be heavily splashed in cream, but the variegation is maddeningly variable.

 

its bark: Older branches and the trunk are barked in a noticeable and pleasing cinnamon-tan.  The bark of younger branches is much blander and greyer. 

Flowering season

Morus flowers in Spring; the flowers are not showy.

Color combinations

'Paper Dolls' goes with anything.

Partner plants

Given the pruning needed—see "How to handle it" below—I would hesitate to partner with anything taller than vinca. 

Where to use it in your garden

'Paper Dolls' needs regular pruning—see "How to handle it" below—so site it where you can get to it. 

Culture

Full sun or part shade.  Well-drained soil enhances hardiness.

How to handle it: The Basics

The variegation of 'Paper Dolls' is frustrating in its randomness.  I'm taking a cue from other cultivars (see "Variants" below) whose eccentricities are enhanced by radical Spring pruning, and will convert my 'Paper Dolls' from a shrub to a pollard.  This will also mean selection of one branch to become the single trunk—which will, conveniently, also highlight the appealing bark on older wood. 

 

The bush grows so fast that there's no reason to settle for misshapen or out-of-alignment trunks; I'll saw off everything except the one new branch, growing right from the base, that I can easily stake to a pure vertical.  I'll top the young trunk at about six feet tall, and keep shoots from below pruned off.  Each Spring thereafter, I'll prune all the shoots from the top of the trunk back to stubs. 

 

The Spring pruning will control the shrub's overall growth; instead of branching willy-nilly, it will have just one trunk with a single dense canopy of branches at the top.  If the new growth still grows too long in its first season, I'll pinch it in early June. 

 

The result will be a thickening and branch-free trunk that's tall enough to show off its bark.  And more disciplined growth habit for the branches.  Will there also be better foliage variegation?  That's the real question.

How to handle it: Another option—or two?

None.

Quirks or special cases

Morus alba releases its pollen by way of catapault-like stamens, at a speed of about 350 miles per hours—over half the speed of sound.  This is the fastest movement of any known plant.

Downsides

The variegation seems very unstable, and many branches don't show it.  Spring pruning seems to improve the "hit rate."

Variants

With one exception—the weeping mulberry—ornamental Morus alba  cultivars are under-used in North America.  'Pendula' / 'Chapparal' is strongly weeping, and is a popular ornamental often seen in Zone 5 and 4, where so many other ornamentals aren't hardy.  'Unryn' has twisted "rick-rack" branches that are interesting in the Winter, but obscured by the foliage in Summer; the contortions are enhanced by pollarding or coppicing.  'Nuclear Blast' is a small shrub with leaves so thread-like it looks nothing like a mulberry.  'Ho'O' / 'Ho-O' has intensely rugose leaves, with the veins depressed below the level of the rest of the leaf.  The leaves look pleated and quilted—or maybe just terribly wrinkled.  Its personality is even stronger when it's pruned severely in Spring.  'Laciniata' has leaves that are, indeed, lacy. 

 

'Ho'O' is the only one I don't grow already that's tempting me.

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

Morus alba is propagated by cuttings.

Native habitat

Morus alba is native to China.

 
 
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