The first time, ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars
Were the gifts you gave
To the dark, and the endless sky
I met one of my all time favourite trees (Koelreuteria paniculata) on a visit to The Arnold Arboretum some 25 years ago…
She just stopped me in my tracks, in fact, if I close my eyes, I am back there, 25 years younger, the warm sun of a late summer’s day, searching feverishly for a Franklinia I was told was in flower in flower (but that is another post) and then I saw her. From a distance all I could make out was a golden mist reflecting the sun, but then as I got closer, the mist separated and slowly turned into floating golden hearts, each one totally perfect, (a description I have to say I prefer to the alternative, ‘seed filled bladders’).
Even the leaves are beautiful, delicate and pinnate, the trunk is tactile and the tree has a haunting beauty.
I was smitten, powerless and had to make her mine.
So, 25 years ago she moved in, got her roots into the soil, and we have been happy ever since.
In truth, she has become more hauntingly beautiful with every passing year; she is just perfect.
Her leaves have a gorgeous pink tinge to them when they make their long awaited appearance in the spring; the flowers are like golden rain floating in a July sky; and then in the autumn, the floating hearts make their long awaited appearance.
Koelreuteria is an easy tree to look after and is not at all demanding, she has also got a fascinating history and is native to Eastern Asia, Central China, and the Korean peninsula.
Interestingly, it is widely reported that they are usually found around tomb areas, shrines and temples, which hints at the fact that they were planted rather than simply the result of a randomly dispersed seed bursting into life.
In Japan, tradition has it that Koelreuteria is often planted over the graves of scholars, so I may have to leave instructions to see if I can be buried under my fine specimen…
In China, the trees are widely known as ‘Luan’ or ‘Luan-hua’.
The flowers have a medicinal use, making a yellow dye and used in traditional medicines, the leaves area an effective black dye, and the seeds are made into beads.
There have also been some very interesting reports that Koelreuteria planted in mining areas remove heavy metals from contaminated soils and so perhaps have an important future as we work hard on cleaning up the planet.
But for now, mine, well, it has to be said she enjoys an easy, pampered life, oodles of warm Yorkshire sun, abundant rain, and a totally besotted gardener to meet her every whim…