Tulip (tree) mania

Looking into the teacupFor the first time ever I remembered to pay attention to the Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and caught it in bloom up close and personal. And I’m happy to say that I know now what has been missing from my life. As shade trees go, the tulip tree is certainly stately and occasionally graceful but not particularly outstanding – unless you consider that it has one of the more identifiably distinct leaf shapes of anything growing. I’ve been thinking “flipper” which makes a certain sense now that I’ve read Michael Dirr’s discription of the leaf buds: “entire bud resembling a duck’s bill”. But no one calls it the Duck Tree and that’s probably because the flowers trump all other associations. Is there anything more sublime? (Don’t answer that – or better yet, do!)

Tulip tree flipper leaves and a blue flower budI’ve been keeping my eye on the few flower buds that the trees on the property deigned to display at eye level – most are on the second story which is one of the great general complaints – and love that something so indubitably blue could open up into my two other favorite colors. I’m not the only one who is enjoying the blossoms right now – the squirrels seem to find them tasty enough to take at least one bite from each and drop the rest but I can say from experience that their debris is a great way to discover whether you have unknowingly been walking by one of these great trees in your own neighborhood all along. I’m glad that people years ago had the foresight to plant a few in town because there’s no way I could make room for now it in my garden. The tree, in the Magnolia family incidentally, can reach a magnificent 150′. Dirr rates its growth as “fast” especially in rich, moist conditions and it’s hardy from USDA zone 4-9 – though he says it may not reach such extreme heights in the colder zones.

Liriodendron tulipifera - the whole tree (look up)Liriodendron tulipifera - Tulip tree bloomLiriodendron tulipifera

And it’s worth remembering that when the tulip trees are in bloom, so is the Chestnut rose (Rosa roxburghii)- at least this year. Anyone who has persevered through the scavenger hunt of construction detours this week has been rewarded with one of the rarest sights on the property. The Chestnut rose only blooms for a week or two at most so if you’ve never seen it, there’s no time like the present. This is another massive beauty that would eat my own garden so I make a point to enjoy it vicariously here. And I would never ever never plant bamboo either but I love to watch ours (Phyllostachys aureosulcata – yellow groove bamboo) shoot up over the course of a few June weeks.

Chestnut rose vistaBamboo shoots about a week old - Phyllostachys aureosulcata

Do you have a favorite tree or shrub that you enjoy elsewhere because it would consume your own garden?