“Vanessa” Persian Ironwood

August 2015 – home from the nursery

August 2015 – Just planted

October 2015

March 2016

May 2016

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February 2017

May 2017

October 2017

February 2018

May 2018

October 2018

January 2019

May 2019

August 2019 – Today

 

The Persian Ironwood tree (Parrotia persica) is native to Iran, or Persia, as it was originally known.  This is a selected variety introduced in England in 1840.  It’s much more narrow growing than the species, which can get quite wide, tho not that tall.  They’re wonderful 4 season trees, with tiny red flowers in late winter and early spring.  Then in summer the scallop shaped leaves come out with reddish tinges on the margins and very lush growth.  By fall it turns spectacular shades of bright golden yellow, which you can see in some of these photos here.  In winter the bark is the beautiful part, turning a mottled green, cream and tan as it ages.  The form is also quite lovely in winter when you can easily see its branching patterns.

This is a relatively columnar form of this tree and is supposed to grow 20 – 40 feel tall and 10 – 20 feet wide.  I’ve pruned the base of it to keep it narrow so it will fit in between the paths where we’ve planted it.  It’s been growing by leaps and bounds every year.  You can see how large it’s gotten in just 5 growing seasons, and the summer isn’t over yet so it’s still growing now.  It’s pretty cool to see it put on 3 – 4 feet of growth each year, tho some  websites say it’s slow growing.  Not for us!  At first the foliage just flops all over itself and falls down into the paths.  But as the summer progresses the branches pull themselves back up into a more narrow form.  I had to restrain myself to keep from pruning it the first year as I watched this habit develop.  Sometimes it’s best to just wait and see what a tree will do before you lop off a branch or two.  You can’t put them back on you know…

Vanessa, which was named for a colorful species of butterfly, has received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticulture Society, and is also a Great Plant Pick chosen by the Elisabeth Miller botanical garden here in Seattle.  It’s in the same family as the witch hazels, but the flowers on this one don’t have any fragrance.  I’ve never seen a really large specimen of this tree, but I’ve seen lots of photos, and it’s really striking as it gets bigger.  As usual I didn’t really give it quite as much room as it might like so I’ll have to continue to do some aesthetic and therapeutic pruning on it as time goes on.  Right now I’m training a couple of the main trunks to head out from under the canopy of the plum next to it so it will grow up and over the plum and the two won’t fight each other as much.  It’s challenging to do this training but it’s also a lot of fun figuring out just how to get everyone here to get along with one another.

This tree likes the moist peaty soil we have in our little Nature Sanctuary here in Greenwood.  It holds the water well but also drains nicely so there’s no worry about over watering.  I also don’t have to give it nearly as much water as other gardeners here in Seattle say they need to do to establish their trees.  I have a system of counting to a certain number based on how many gallons of water the hose puts out per minute.  Yes, I measured the output of the hose to do this.  Sometimes it gets a little bit nuts to count out all the plants to be sure they get enough water.  At times I can’t seem to stop myself from counting everything I run into!  It’s useful to help the plants to establish well, but it makes me a little bit crazy… 😉

Happy gardening!

Steve

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