• People in Helmsley Walled Garden

May 2018 – Laburnums

Helmsley Walled Garden Laburnum and AlliumsWell the sun has finally come out after a very long holiday and we are all pleased to see it here at the Garden. Everything has been so behind but is now thankfully starting to catch up. It always does in the end.

One of the highlights of May for me is the flowering of our Laburnum Arch. Now it’s fair to say it’s not as grand or as long as the famous archway at Bodnant in Wales but it is pretty special. Sometimes I stand underneath when it’s in bloom and the only thing I can hear is the buzzing of myriads of bees as they collect nectar and pollen. It is beautiful in full flower, but it does take some dedicated work to keep it looking fabulous.

One of the jobs you never see being done because it’s done in January or February when we are shut is the pruning and shaping of the trees over the archway. This was done this year by our Head Gardener Lisa who stood up a ladder with a saw and loppers for hours at a time in freezing winds to shape the trees and tie in all the new branches. It’s a cold job so we thawed her out regularly with hot drinks and biscuits and telling her it will look brilliant in May.

Apparently, the smooth green wood was once used in cabinet making and inlaying and also in musical instruments. Recorders, flutes and bagpipes were made from the wood in the past although cheaper hardwoods have now taken over sadly.

Anyway, I’d like to see more of these beautiful trees around so if you fancy having a go at growing a Laburnum or maybe even training it over an archway, here’s a few tips.

A fully grown Laburnum can reach up to 7m (22ft) with a spread of around 6m (19ft) taking about fifteen years to get there.  It’s not a long-lived tree, the average life span being around 30-40 years. It flowers in late May or early June and will grow well in almost any soil but doesn’t like being waterlogged. Extremely hardy, it’ll cope with temperatures down to -20c. in 2010, the temperature here in 2010 was a minimum of -10c overnight for a month and the trees didn’t even blink. Happiest in full sun it will tolerate partial shade.

Perhaps best of all they are very independent trees and require no special looking after unless of course you are training them over an arch. Once established they don’t need feeding and would only need watering in a serious and prolonged drought.

The three most popular varieties grown are Laburnum anagyroides, Laburnum alpinum and L. x watereri ‘Vossii’. You’ll find these at any reputable nursery. A rule of thumb is the smaller the tree, the more easily it will establish, and it will be cheaper. So, splash out on some beautiful colour for your garden this year, It will make you smile and the bees will love you.

Tricia Harris May 2018