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

Golden European Ash

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Ooooh:  Black leaf buds!  What better way to highlight them than to pair with such colorful bark?  The tree is typically described in terms of the lovely yellow foliage.  Fine it is.  Then there's the Latin cultivar name,'Aureafolia', meaning "yellow foliage," literally.  OK, we get it. 

 

But a lot of trees have yellow foliage.  If I had been handling the marketing, I'd have led with the unique Winter talents, when 'Aureafolia' doesn't have a leaf on it: Mustard bark on the twigs and young branches.  Ebony leaf buds, cloven like the hooves of dollhouse deer.  The kick-ass combination of the two.  

 

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The bark of the straight species is a snooze.  Take a look at the bottom section of the trunk in the picture below, onto which this yellow-barked cultivar was grafted.  Brown, brown, brown.  Boring, boring, boring.

 

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At the least, then, I'd have named this tree 'Flaviramea', meaning yellow-branched—unless anyone can let me know the Latin for "cloven like the hooves of dollhouse deer."

 

 

Here's how exciting this tree's growth is in Spring and Summer.

 

Here's how exciting this tree's growth is in Fall.

 

Here's how colorful the bark and buds of leafless stems of golden European ash are from mid-Fall to Spring, plus a discussion of the striking rounded tips that many of the stems display.

 

Here's how to grow this remarkable deciduous tree, which is colorful year-round:

 

Latin Name

Fraxinus excelsior 'Aureafolia' / 'Golden Desert' / 'Jaspidea'

Common Name

Golden European Ash

Family

Oleaceae, the Olive family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous tree.

Hardiness

Zones 5 - 7.

Habit

Single trunked, gracefully upright.

Rate of Growth

Medium. 

Size in ten years

Twelve to fifteen feet tall and wide.  At maturity, thirty feet tall and twenty wide.

Texture

Showy but not heavy or dense; casts a lacy shade. 

Grown for

its bark, which on young branches is mustard.  It matures to a generic brown as the branches age.  See "How to Handle it" below for the strategy to maximize young bark and minimize the old. 

 

its ebony leaf buds.

 

its foliage, which is bright yellow in Spring, greenish yellow in Summer, and yellow again in Fall.

 

its toughness:  Despite the gold foliage, the tree requires full sun and, as long as it's growing in deep soil, tolerates a fair amount of drought.

Flowering season

Spring, before the leaves appear.  The flowers are not showy.

Color combinations

With bright foliage as well as branches, golden European ash is doubly colorful.  Even more unusual is that the color is the same for both leaves and bark; I can't think of another tree or shrub that's so well coordinated.  The bark of the gold-leaved Siberian dogwood is scarlet; that of the gold-leaved locust is boring brown.  Are there blue-foliaged "woodies" whose bark is blue as well?  Does any purple-leaved woody have purple twigs?  Fraxinus excelsior 'Aureafolia' may well be unique.

 

With a year-round message of Gold is Good, neighboring plants had best be in agreement if you're not to look color-blind or just willfully tacky.  Strong blue and purple would be vivid contrasts, and dark green an effective background as well as underplanting.

Partner Plants

It would be well worth it to train a blue-flowered clematis up into the foliage.  Unless you prune 'Aureafolia' into a shrub, the challenge is choosing a variety that can grow high enough.  'Mrs. Cholmondeley' and 'Perle d'Azur' are about the only blues that can climb twelve to fifteen feet.  ("Cholmondeley" is pronounced "CHUM-lee," which is a relief.)  Alas, there are no blue-flowered roses, and wisterias bloom early—before their foliage emerges and, I bet, before that of 'Aureafolia'  emerges, too.  I'll confirm this Spring. 

 

There are roses plenty big enough to train into the Fraxinus, even if you let it grow full size.  Yellow-flowered varieties won't show well; neither will white.  But burgundy or scarlet flowers—especially if the flowers are semi-single and show a large boss of stamens and pistils, which, in roses at least, are nearly always yolk yellow—could be a welcome jolt.  'Paul's Scarlet Climber' has the size but not the boss; 'Ramblin' Red' is the same. 'Dortmund' has the size—mine are at the top of stakes fourteen feet tall and still aren't showing signs of acrophobia—as well as the yellow boss.

 

And there are burgundy or at least purple clematis to consider, as well, including 'Jackmanii', 'The President', and 'Royal Velours'.  All can top twelve feet when established and well-watered.

Where to use it in your garden

Fraxinus excelsior 'Aureafolia' demands center stage, especially if you're using it as the colorful support for a rose or clematis.  There are few pleasures as deliciously civilized as reaching into an ornamental tree to lower a spray of exuberant flowers right to eye- and nose-level.

 

If possible, grow 'Aureafolia' as part of a larger bed of plants, not as a solo tree in the midst of lawn or gravel.  (This would be essential if you were training a vine or shrub up into the tree, anyway.)  If there's any hope of seeing the tree from even a story or two above ground, underplant with dark evergreens so the yellow twigs will be highlighted all the more when seen from that high vantage.  Even the mightiest yew hedge—such a marvelous backdrop to the tree when viewed from ground level—will be no help at all as a background to the twigs when the tree is seen from above.  Yews, plum yews, blue holly, or vinca are the darkest and therefore the best choices for such "high-view" underplanting, then olive-green evergreens such as pieris, rhododendrons, pachysandra, and, in mild climates, pittosporum.

 

Because the tree is so unusual in the cold months when it's leafless, limit the number of herbaceous underplantings, which in Winter will reveal mulch at best, bare dirt at the worst. 

Culture

Full sun and any reasonable soil with good Winter drainage.  Fraxinus isn't fussy, but of course, everything always grows faster with a more nutritious soil.

How to handle it:  The Basics

Individuals that are intended for a full-size maturity need little care beyond a kind and somewhat attentive first season, so they establish well. 

How to handle it: Another option—or two?

With such unusually barked twigs and small branches, why not help the tree grow more and more of them, while also getting rid of as much of the boringly-barked older branches?  If ever a tree trilled and warbled for regular pruning, this Fraxinus is it.  In Fall the first year when the trunk is finally eight or ten feet tall, cut off the top foot or two, down to a convenient pair of buds.  The next Fall, prune the resultant branches back to their lowest pair of buds.  And the next.  Each Fall thereafter, prune back to the lowest buds only those branches that are the thickest or longest; let the rest grow another season before pruning.  Ash is a tree for selective pruning, in other words, not a chop-it-all-back-every-year pollarding.  Besides, if you pollarded the tree every Fall, there wouldn't be any show of Winter twigs.

Quirks or special cases

None.

Downsides

Both native and exotic ash trees are potentially susceptible to a dizzying range of attacks from insects, bacteria, fungi, and as-yet-still-mysterious agents.  Borers are the most worrisome, because a resistant ash species hasn't yet been identified.  In particular, Emerald Ash Borer is the most deadly.  It is severe in the Midwest, and is still spreading.  Don't plant ashes at all if you're gardening West of Pennsylvania, East of Iowa, and North of Tennesee.  Even outside that area, 'Aureafolia' could be a choice, but possibly ephemeral, beauty. 

Variants

There are dozens of cultivars of European ash available in Europe, in many combinations of yellow twigs, weeping habit, yellow foliage, and overall size.  Susceptibility to borers has limited their practicality in North America except west of the Rockies, which is borer-free.  In addition to 'Aureafolia', I'm growing 'Aurea Pendula', but they're not in positions that will create a terrible gap if the borers find them.

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

By grafting.

Native habitat

Fraxinus excelsior is native to Europe, north Africa, and southwest Asia.  

 
 
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