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All about my favourite tree – a Poplar Tremula Erecta

De-nuded

When we arrived at the Villas the garden didn’t exist. The land behind the house had been brutally razed to the ground by heartless property developers who’d de-nuded it of all its plants and mashed up rubble and waste with the soil. All that was left were stinging nettles, some couch grass and a healthy clump of Japanese Knotweed.

Early days...

Planting a Poplar

We studied aerial pictures of the property and saw that previously there had been several trees – mostly cherry plum I believe …so I made it my goal to arborally (I think I made that word up) re-populate it as quickly as possible.

In went several cherry plum, apple, peach, fig and cobnuts but the focal point of the garden remains our Poplar tremula from Barcham Trees which, although I love all our trees, I have to say is my pride and joy! I did a bit of research recently that I’d like to share with you because it turns out Poplar tremula is a fascinating tree and perfect for all sorts of gardens…

Poplar tremula erecta in May

Tremble

It’s part of the Willow (Salicaceae) family and in English is commonly known as trembling Aspen or quiver leaf. In French it’s called Peuplier faux-tremble or Peuplier blanc.

Its Latin name is Populus tremuloides and it was so named because of the way the leaves tremble in even the slightest of breezes. This is due to the fact that the relatively long leaf stalks (petioles) are vertically flattened. They attach to the leaf blade at right angles to the leaf surface which makes them flutter. I always think they make a sound like a wave retreating back to the ocean over a pebble beach…

Vertically flattened petiole

The active ingredient in aspirin occurs in the inner bark and the leaves apparently relieve the itch of insect stings and bites.

Bees collect propolis from its buds which they use to, amongst other things, reinforce the structural stability of the hive and to seal alternate entrances to make it more defensible.

Honey bees need propolis too

It’s a Boy

The trees are either female or male – ours is a boy. In spring before leafing, both male and female trees produce grey, fluffy catkins which are dense clusters of tiny flowers. The catkins on male trees shed pollen and those on female trees produce seeds.

The flowers are wind-pollinated. Spring winds, unhampered by any leaves, carry pollen from male catkins to female catkins on another tree. The pollen fertilizes the ovules in the female catkins and seeds result.

Poplar bark

Leaves

They also reproduce by sending up shoots from their large root system. Therefore in a garden situation be careful not to damage the roots when digging or planting because this will encourage suckers which you don’t necessarily want.

Its glossy new leaves emerge deep burgundy in colour, gradually turning to a soft olive green and then in autumn to bright reds and yellows.

New Poplar tremula leaves bright and glossy

Slim Tree

Our tree is columnar (erecta) which means the branches grow upwards as opposed to outwards, resulting in a very slim tree that casts a very slim shadow! This is a big plus in our garden because I didn’t want our greenhouse and vegetable beds cast in shade.

It is a fast-growing species but compared to some trees is relatively short-lived – from 80 to 100 years … but as my elderly mother often says about all sorts of things: “At least it will see me out!”

Time to plant your potatoes!
Time to plant your potatoes!

Potatoes

Finally these trees offer gardeners a handy visual reminder… they say that when the leaves appear it’s time to plant your potatoes!

So if you’re thinking of planting a tree in your garden and want something very attractive, slightly unusual and that won’t take up too much space, Poplar tremula erecta comes highly recommended …for so many reasons.

Poplar tremula erecta growing tall and proud at the Villas.
Poplar tremula erecta growing tall and proud at the Villas.

 

 

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