Comments re Parrotia Persica 'Vanessa' Trees (Persian Ironwood)

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by TMG, Feb 16, 2010.

  1. TMG

    TMG Member

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    I'm thinking of using this tree and would like your thoughts/comments please, or other tree suggestions. I have a long, narrow space (26'x3.5') against a fence on my back patio, southwest facing. Would be planting a row of 3. The goal is to create a screen from our neighbour's yard. I want deciduous trees over evergreen; and something with year-round interest. I also thought of Katsuras.
     
  2. silver_creek

    silver_creek Active Member

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    May be too wide for your space.
     
  3. kaspian

    kaspian Active Member 10 Years

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    Yeah, it might be tough to find a deciduous tree that, in such a narrow space, will attain enough density of growth to provide useful screening. Of course you can prune a Parrotia (or anything else) to fit the space, though at the risk of creating a leggy specimen, becoming rather bare toward ground-level.

    I'm unfortunately not familiar with growing conditions in your area (to my regret, because it seems like a wonderful place to garden). Here in Maine I might try something like this with a winterberry, Ilex verticillata, which naturally forms a very dense and yet elegantly structured framework of branches that never looks tangled or unkempt or congested -- like, say, an old lilac or forsythia. It also has the great advantage of bright red or orange berries that persist well through winter.

    I wonder if it might be worth considering some kind of espalier -- train and prune the plant hard against the wall, then construct some kind of framework above that to keep the plant in line, until it reaches a height at which you can allow it to spread. In this case, the range of possible plants broadens quite a bit. Given proper sunlight, you might even use old-fashioned, hip-forming roses -- for instance a sprawling R. wichuraiana -- which could be interplanted with clematis or other climbers for additional interest in their flowers and seed-pods.
     
  4. silver_creek

    silver_creek Active Member

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    There are some narrow beeches that would work, Red Obelisk comes to mind. There is also a newer cultivar of Katsura called 'Red Fox' that is even narrower than seedling Katsuras (which in time do become quiet large).
     
  5. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Narrowly columnar conifers.

    Or vine maples or Cornelian cherries pruned into fan-like shapes.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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  7. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Pyrus ussuriensis cultivars are on the market in North America also.
     
  9. Urban Eden

    Urban Eden Member

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    Be careful with Katsura. Yes, it is a lovely tree - one of my favourites, but must be planted in the right place. Over time the root system becomes quite extensive and roots tend to run along the surface of the soil, thus making it difficult for other plants under the tree to survive, not to mention the root damage from lawn mowers. Also important to note is the moisture requirements - Katsuras are water lovers and do not tolerate long periods of drought.
     
  10. TMG

    TMG Member

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    I decided to plant Parrotia Vanessa in my space, and I'm so very happy. 'Vanessa' is a columnar grower, reaching 20 to 25 feet tall, and 8 to 10 feet wide. I planted 3 in a row, providing a light screen between us and our neighbour. Beautiful seasonal interest. As this tree is in the Witchhazel family, there are pretty tiny red spidery flowers starting in January. Starts to leaf out in April, with green oval-shaped leaves, scalloped burgundy edges. Turn mid-green in summer, and starting late August begin their autumn display, turning bronze, then crimson, the orange, finishing brilliant gold in October. Interesting irregular branching habit, durable and drought tolerant. A beautiful tree that I look out on from my kitchen window and back deck. Good choice.
     
  11. Urban Eden

    Urban Eden Member

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    Nice choice - I am familiar with this tree. You'll love it in the fall - yellow, orange and scarlet. And it has beautiful bark similar to London Plane - great winter interest. How big are your planters?
     
  12. TMG

    TMG Member

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    Actually, they are planted in the ground. A strip between our patio and fence about 20 feet long by 4 feet wide.
     
  13. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    This will of course get much wider than 4'. 8'-10' will take longer to be exceeded. but this will happen in time. No attractive way to lop the branches back.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2011
  14. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    Other suggestion:

    'Amanogawa' ornamental cherry. There's nothing special about them when they're not blooming, but they generally are quite narrow. If your conditions are perfect, though, they might want to get larger. See some photos at
    http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=24947
    I hesitate a bit to recommend these because some of the younger ones I've seen have not been all that healthy. But I've seen some great looking ones too, and the only place they don't look silly is in the kind of location you describe.
     
  15. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    An 'Amanogawa' in Seattle measured 38' x 4'7" x 32' in 1993. See Van Pelt, Champion Trees of Washington State (1996, University of Washington, Seattle).
     
  16. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    But that's rare, right? A champion, the one in the Washelli cemetery, that's all by itself, surrounded by open ground and sunshine. Three planted in a long narrow space aren't going to do that.
     
  17. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    I've seen lots of billowy ones, as with other fastigiate variants extreme narrowness is a feature of young specimens. See discussion of older trees on page 206 of Kuitert, Japanese Flowering Cherries (1999, Timber Press, Portland) - who also does claim that keeping it in a small space can be achieved by pruning some of the branches way back every 5 years.
     
  18. Green Crown

    Green Crown Active Member

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    I would be very interested to see how much more narrow the 'Vanessa' cultivar is at maturity. I find parrotias to be very beautiful landscape features, especially their foliage, when young, but all the mature ones I've worked on in the Vancouver area have been very dense, broad, and ungainly. They seem to eventually have a very convoluted branching structure and extremely dense foliage. I've worked on several around 30' in height with similar canopy width.

    I have a client with a row of 'Amanogawa' cherries planted about 15 years ago that are very narrow (5-6' canopies) and heights of about 20' without pruning. That being said, they had a bit of a small rooting area...
     
  19. Urban Eden

    Urban Eden Member

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    Any thoughts on the root system of Parrotia persica? I want to spec them in large planters in a plaza over an underground parking garage. Approx soil depth 24". If the roots of P. persica are extensive and widespreading I may choose something else.
     
  20. Green Crown

    Green Crown Active Member

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    Can be fairly extensive. I looked at a mature one a few weeks ago that was cracking and heaving a 4' retaining wall downslope about 5' from the root collar... How wide are the planters?
     
  21. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    As 'Vanessa' is not a dwarf you are talking about planting a medium- to large-growing tree in planters. Multiple examples of Persian ironwood more than 30' tall are known in Seattle at this time. One at Lakewold Gardens, near Tacoma, WA was determined to be 60' tall during 1990 (See Van Pelt, Champion Trees of Washington State, 1996, University of Washington, Seattle).
     
  22. Urban Eden

    Urban Eden Member

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    There are several concrete planters - all over a concrete slab. Average size is 30' x 60'. All planters have drainage and irrigation, and will be protected by a root barrier. The lateral space for root growth should be fine, but I'm not sure the soil depth (24") will be adequate (36" would be ideal) or the proximity to the adjacent poured-in-place concrete upstand wall. As for the Tacoma tree at 60', any idea how old the tree is? According to the literature, the mature height for Vanessa is up to 40'.
     
  23. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    If you are using commercial sources mature or long-term sizes are routinely understated, to a large extent because vendors are afraid of scaring people off. Faster growing, overly large choices still dominate wholesale production because growers want to turn over their fields as often as possible. And they don't want to invest in items that may fail in propagation or after planting out. Hence all the red maples, Norway maples etc. etc. that continue to be seen over and over in price lists and to be the focus of selection programs. Slower- and smaller-growing choices are much more expensive because of the longer production time and other bothers. Many consumers, whose situations may call for these instead may balk at the purchase prices required in order to make it worthwhile for the original grower.

    Selections new to general planting will not have been seen by many observers in a state of full development. If a tree cultivar is less than say, 100 years old full size of even the original seedling or other variation may not have been observed by anyone. And such would be possible only if the original variant had been planted and maintained somewhere, as an uninhibited solitary specimen on a favorable site. Often this is not the case.

    According to Jacobson, North American Landscape Trees (1996, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley) the history of 'Vanessa' is not known, other than that Twombly nursery in CT was selling it during 1995. (Perhaps more information is available now). One I have seen at the Heronswood site near Kingston, WA is already pretty tall (and probably 10' wide or more).

    Jacobson (same) also reports that Persian ironwood grows 80' tall in the wild, one with multiple trunks* planted in the Arnold Arboretum during 1881 was 60' tall by 75' wide at one time, another, in Switzerland was 59' by 49' by 1967, and so on.

    *Cutting raised specimens often grow as giant bushes, while seedlings demonstrate apical dominance
     
  24. castawaykev

    castawaykev Active Member

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    I sell Persian Ironwood - parrotia persica from my nursery in Summerside, pei, canada. I love the tree that is why I offer it. The fall colours are amazing, thanks to the withhazel family. Also when older the bark is comparable to Stewartia. A myriad of exfoliated colour. So I can surely see why anyone would want one. However you need the appropriate amount of space for sure. Same with Katsura which I grow from seed (another fav....seems almost all trees are favs with us tree lovers).

    Kevin www.thehoneytreenursery.com
     

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