A Gardening Journal

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Empress Tree in Bud

Buds at last! Stems that sprout from a pollarded empress tree need more than one growing season to mature enough to form buds. I pollarded my tree in the Spring of 2012 and only now, two and a half years later, is the resultant growth displaying the species' sensational trusses of tawny buds.

 

Paulownia tomentosa buds closer 102614 640

 

The buds can be showy even at a distance, but are still more intriguing when they can be seen at closer range.

 

Paulownia tomentosa pollard head finally in bud 102614 640

 

To that end, I've kept my tree as a pollard. Paulownia tomentosa can be pollarded every Spring, which enables a tree that, otherwise, can top fifty feet to be kept at ten to twenty. But then it never forms buds, let alone flowers. Pollarding every few years could be the way to enjoy the flowers while also keeping the tree at least somewhat more compact.

 

But—and it's a big but—the buds are formed during the Fall, and don't mature to flowers until Spring. There's no problem with their overwintering in, say, Santa Barbara. I'll never forget the sight of a leafless Paulownia there, full of buds in that subtropical paradise's balmy Winter landscape. But in New England, a nasty Winter can kill the buds and even the stem tips, even though the tree itself will survive to resprout from lower down. If that happened this coming Winter, three years of pollarding-then-waiting would be for nought.  

 

Ah, the suspense.

 

 

Here's the link to all the posts on Paulownia tomentosa: The pollarded tree with its claw-like bare branches grasping the sky in Winter, the tree in lush leaf in Summer, the speculation on how much time the stems of a pollarded-in-Spring-2012 empress tree would need to form buds and flowers, this one on the buds that had developed by Fall 2014, and the latest, on unexpected challenges that severe Winter weather poses for this species when it's pollarded. 

 
 
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