Take time out from watching the Olympics to see the rare blooming of a Chinese tree. The young tree has amazed gardeners at Borde Hill Garden, by flowering for the third year in a row. The tree, which has just started flowering, will continue to bloom throughout August into September.
The deciduous tree (Emmenopterys henryi) is native to central and south-west China and was introduced to Britain in 1907 by the great plant hunter Ernest Wilson.
Head Gardener, Andy Stevens said: 'The flowers are creamy white and strongly scented with the corolla white bracts. We are hoping the sister tree planted in 1928, that flowered for the first time last year will bloom again. The Emmenopterys henryi was grown at Borde Hill Garden from a seed collected by Plant Hunter George Forrest, whilst the younger Specimen was planted in the 1980s following a Kew Gardens expedition. For many years we waited to see it in flower, so to see it in bloom for the third year in a row is a horticultural amazement.'
Described by Wilson as "one of the most strikingly beautiful trees of Chinese forests", the Emmenopterys is notoriously shy to flower in the West. It has reddish-purple young shoots and striking red leaves in spring, which mature to a glossy green, producing a shock of small creamy white flowers.
Weather extremes are thought to trigger flowering. The first tree to flower in the West was at Villa Taranto by Lake Maggiore, Italy, in 1971, while the first in the UK was at Kew Gardens' sister site Wakehurst Place, West Sussex, in 1987.
The original seed, collected from Yunnan in Southern China, was founded on one of the many expeditions sponsored by Col Stephenson Clarke over nearly 40 years, that helped create the notable collection of trees and shrubs at the Grade II* listed garden.
Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke said, 'We are enormously pleased to see the young Emmenopterys henryi it's flowering again this year. My great-grand father planted the tree but never saw it flower, neither did his son or grandson. We had to wait until the fourth generation of my family to see this amazing tree bloom.'
Borde Hill holds the largest collection of 'champion' trees to be found in private collection in the British Isles with a total 8,000 trees and shrubs thriving here. The family still occupies the Elizabethan Mansion, which lies in the 200-acre Estate.
Published 7th August 2012
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