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

The Best Season Ever: The Empress Tree in Bud & Flower



The hallmark of great plants, great gardens, great gardeners:  There is always something more to consider, something more to try, something more to celebrate.  No sooner had I dilated upon the large foliage and compact habit of my pollarded Paulownia tomentosa, than my editor sniffed that my achievement was at the expense of the tree's unique buds and flowers.  Indeed, pollarded Paulownia trees neither bud nor flower.


Considering their visual appeal—thank you, Oregon State plant datatase, for this mouthwatering picture—is there a way to have the cake and eat it, too? 


The erect trusses of cinnamon-colored buds form during the Summer, and are held through the Winter to develop into flowers in Spring.  First-year Paulownia stems put all their energy into vegetative growth; they don't form buds.  So if I pollard my Paulownia every year, no, indeed, it will never bud or flower.


How old does a Paulownia stem need to be to form buds?  Let's ponder.  It needs to grow one Spring and Summer after pollarding just to recover from the pollarding.  If I didn't pollard the next Spring, but let the stems grow for a second Spring and Summer, would the stem form buds that Summer?  Keep in mind that those buds wouldn't open into flowers until the third Spring.  At the minimum, then, it might be possible for a pollarded Paulownia to bud and flower if it were pollarded only every third year, right after flowering. 


Would yet another year of growth be needed before bud formation?  Would, then, pollarding need to happen only every fourth year?


I say, let the Games begin!  I haven't yet pollarded my Paulownia, and I won't until this past season's new stems are old enough to bud and flower. 


Much good news here.  Paulownia will resprout from the stump—from the roots, themselves, for heaven's sake—so this is a tree that can handle such infrequent pollarding.  I don't have room for a full-sized Paulownia, but I would have room for one that was pollarded only every few years, especially if that made possible a crop of buds and flowers.  Just as helpful, the pollarding removes the spent flower clusters along with the branches they've arisen from, so there won't be any formation of seeds.  Paulownia is all too adept at self-seeding, which is one reason, besides the extra-large foliage and eager new growth, that pollarding is a smart way to handle the it.


Conveniently, the pollarding also knocks the tree back to a manageable height; free-range Paulownia quickly grows so tall that deadheading would be impossible.  


Was annual pollarding throwing the baby out with the bathwater?  I'll know if I can demonstrate that triennial or even quadrennial pollarding is the way to have big foliage (the first season), great buds (the second or third), great flowers (the third or fourth), and no seeds (ever). 


I'll update the "How to handle it" section after the results of this experiment are in.  Stay tuned.


Here's how to grow empress tree.

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