Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Laburnum...

As spring merges into early summer we are yearly rewarded with the emergence of fresh foliage on trees. Throughout the landscape they are looking at their absolute best. Their bright, light greens are seen in every shade and texture, far removed from late summer’s duller leaden hues. Its the time of year too when many of our favorite flowering trees erupt into bloom and none is a finer sight this month than the Laburnums.

They are covered for weeks around now with long pendant groups of clustered flowers giving rise to their common name of ‘Golden Rain Tree’ or ‘Golden Chain Tree’. Closer inspection of the flowers and their fresh green, clover like foliage shows this small garden tree is actually part of the pea family. 
It was first introduced to the UK in Elizabethan times from the mountains of Southern Europe and has proved hardy, decorative and useful ever since. Its heartwood is the most extraordinary shade of deep olive brown surrounded by contrasting creamy yellow sapwood. It is ideal for turning and interestingly was once widely used for bagpipe parts.
Laburnums’ big breakthrough came in the mid 1800s however when a cross occurred between the two sparse flowered natural species, creating the cultivar Laburnum x watereri ‘Vossii’. This is the form you see planted everywhere now as its longer golden chains of abundant flowers can reach up to two feet in length. Although not large, or long lived, it has proved immensely popular. The spread of the suburbs over the last century, vastly increasing its welcome presence. 
If it has a downside it must be that every part is poisonous and the seeds that develop after flowering are particularly so. Children mistaking them for peas in a pod have been severely affected in the past. As unsupervised outdoor play becomes less common though, the chance of this happening becomes rarer. Sadly too, most children now associate peas with frozen bags at the supermarket rather than pods plucked fresh from the plant.
So, don’t be put off this wonderful, colourful tree as a potential addition to your garden. If you have more space, go one step further and train it over arched supports to create a tunnel of flower hanging down over a pathway. However they are grown, Laburnums create stunning showers of ‘Golden Rain’ overhead...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...