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?

8 thoughts on “Tulip (tree) mania

  1. My backyard is full of oak trees and tulip poplars. I like them, but my shade gardens are directly under them and each spring the branches with leaves and ‘tulip’s’ land all over the garden–and start to smother my tender perennials, until I get out there and clean up! They are interesting in their own right…and I will never get rid of them; but they do have a bit of an inconvenient and annoying side to them:-(

    Jan, They certainly don’t make a delicate mess, do they? Another reason to enjoy them from afar – though like you, I’d never get rid of it if I had it. -kris

  2. Yes, an enormous weeping European Beech at Plantations that I’ll post about soon. It is its own room. I adore it. It would eat our garden. And always, Manzanita.

    Lynn, I’ll look forward to your beech post – I used to play “house” in one as a kid! -kris

  3. I’d never seen the INSIDE of a tulip tree bloom before, only from underneath; very cool! I envy you your chestnut rose, too. And you’re absolutely right; someone else;s garden is the ideal place to enjoy bamboo!

    Pomona, They definitely prefer to be seen from underneath – I felt like I was invading its privacy by peering in. -kris

  4. You have outdone yourself with these photos. Blue buds? I never knew that and they are the most beautiful blue. I do love the bamboo and don’t have any running bamboo as I am a bit afraid of its’ reputation even though I have room for it under the pines. I would love to add some beech trees but their ultimate size prevents me from doing so. I will enjoy yours at Blithewold!

    Layanee, I think you’re wise to stay away from the bamboo! And come enjoy the Blithewold beeches anytime. – I don’t think they’re done growing yet … -kris

  5. How fun that you posted this just shortly after I noticed tulip trees in the Metroparks for the first time! I literally stopped short and said, “Oh my gosh, what is this GORGEOUS flowering tree?!” lol… I had guessed that it “must be” a tulip tree by the flowers, but had to look it up to confirm when I got home. They’re absolutely amazing–it’s still hard to believe that they grow up north, they look so big and beautiful and exotic. :)

    Kim, That’s too funny! I’m impressed that you were looking up and noticed it – I have a habit of looking down this time of year. -kris

  6. Tulip Trees aren’t my favorite. Too messy and weak wooded but like any tree I guess they are okay in the right place. ‘Fast growing’ would be understatement.

    Copper Beech is a tree that I love but do not have the room to grow.

    DF, Beeches have won the favorite-won’t-fit award hands down! I didn’t know that about the tulip tree being weak wooded but it makes sense if they’re that fast growing. – I’ll have to pay more attention – we actually have a young one on the lawn below the greenhouse… -kris

  7. I saw some marvelous trees today at a place called Chanticleer. Including a Tulip Popular which would fill my yard.

    Wayne, Chanticleer is on my list of must see gardens… Someday… -kris

  8. Oh, I tend to look down in the spring, for the little woodland wildflowers… but in the summer, the parks are so busy that I am often looking “out” for other dogs, bikes, and the rest of the laundry list of things that might entice Miss Coco to start pulling me in another direction. And the tulip poplar had one low-hanging branch that caught my attention at the top of my sight line… :)

    Kim, it’s perfect when the things we need to see just present themselves to us! -kris

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