Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lavender Trees

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Oh Joy, my Paulownia kawakamii is blooming! Such lovely blooms! And I can’t get a decent picture because my digital camera broke and I only have a camera phone now. So, here’s a picture of Paulownia tomentosa from the OSU Landscape Plants website. P. kawakamii has lavender flowers with a white throat speckled in purple.

I planted this tree in about ’98. It was broken off several times (trick or treaters got it once, an angry teen another). It is now about 20’ tall. It should top out at 25’ – 35’.

There are mixed reviews of this plant. Some people see it as a weed; while others see it as a beauty in their yards. I love that it is fast growing and produces a lot of shade during the summer. The fragrant flowers make it an ideal spring specimen. On the down side, it sheds leaves all summer, there is no fall interest (the leaves turn brown and drop), and it produces copious seed heads.

The Victorians grew many of the Paulownia species for their leaves. The immature plant produces huge, almost elephant ear size, heart-shaped, fuzzy leaves. By cutting the plant back every year, you can have a specimen of about 6’ that will stop traffic. Literally, people stopped their cars and asked about the plant when it was very young! Of course, you sacrifice the flowers for the leaves, but what a choice. I think I would love to have at least two of these trees. One for flowers and the other for the leaves!

P. kawakamii is an extremely endangered plant back in its native Taiwan, China, and Japan. Loss of habitat is to blame. It is also touted as one of the great carbon sink trees. (Carbon sinks are plants that take up carbon from the atmosphere and hold it until the plant dies.) The tree is drought resistant – no need to water during our usual summer drought here in the PNW.

P. kawakamii is one of up to 17 species of Paulownia. As with any tree, research to find the one that will fit your space at full maturity. After all, it is better to spend the time in research than to spend it cutting down the tree and waiting the years for another to fill the void.

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