The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Gleditsia triacanthos 'Ruby Lace' in the Upper Garden

Another plant bought at the same time in Boccelli Garden

Every year, I think the Gleditsia triacanthos 'Ruby Lace' in my upper border is dead. I pollarded this small tree in April, and July 4th weekend is upon us and it still hasn't leafed out! What is even more curious is that I have another tree, bought at the same time from Gossler Farm Nursery, planted in the Boccelli Garden and it has new branches nearly a foot long already.

I first saw this tree used as a cut-back plant in a mixed border at Wave Hill. It's beautiful bronzy-red foliage was a show-stopper and it's frothy texture is the perfect foil for the other plants in the Flower Garden. Mine usually puts on 3-4 feet of growth in a year and looks fresh and healthy in the garden until frost.

I examined my plant in the upper garden carefully this morning and I see new plump buds promising to sprout. It is always about the time that I am threatening to replace it that it finally comes to life. If anyone has an explanation, let me know for I am truly puzzled. Hopefully, I will be posting and boasting about this extraordinary plant in my upper border in September!


  1. It's just winding you up, Michael! I have plants that do that to me in my garden - there's always a will-they, won't-they period round about late May/early June - usually involving my cannas.

  2. It is nice t know that I'm not alone, Victoria. I should probably talk to it more sweetly!

  3. I have three Gleditsia triacanthos inermis 'Sunburst' (at least I think that's what they are) and they also display lagging growth. They leaf out rather early, unlike your 'Ruby Lace' but they've hardly grown in four years. Some limbs just die unexpectedly. I don't know if this is a characteristic of the species, or of the conditions under which they're grown (mine are not ideal to say the least). I think if I cut mine back hard like you do, I'd have your problem. They're a useful addition to the garden regardless.

  4. James, the upper garden plant has put on about 3-4 inches of growth in the last several days. My guess is that this plant is above a retaining wall which somehow changes the environment and tells the plant to leaf out later in oder to protect itself. I wonder if red leafed cultivars are more vigorous than yellow leafed cultivars? Wave Hill also has a Gleditsia triacanthos 'Ruby Lace which they don't pollard and it seems to be a very healthy tree. And I agree, they are a great addition to my garden as well.

    Yes, William, both trees are grafted. I'll let you know what they look like later in the season.

  5. I thought I posted this before but try again!
    If the trees are grafted onto different stock they can often perform differently..same with roses..makes sense to me!

  6. I presumed they were grafted on the same stock because they came from the same source but the stock may have been seedlings. I never thought of that! Thanks, William, I really appreciate your comment and expertise.

  7. We once had a plant nursery and got to know stuff like this..I have the great rose 'Graham Stuart Thomas' which i reckon to be the best yellow but i bought in honour of one of the worlds TOP plant writer etc (I don't DO many roses) and it was sourced from South Australia (a state to our west) They use a different type rootstock to suit 'their' conditions and the rose has never shown any vigour whatsoever..that suits me fine as it is just right in its stunted way! Another possibility for your plant is it may have been rootbound and the roots were not straightened out on planting..more deciduous tree stock fail or die because of this could lift it next Winter and check out the roots!
    Count yourself lucky..I do not give out 'gardening' stuff as a rule! (T.I.C.)

  8. Thanks very much, William. I am usually pretty good about opening up and separating the roots on root-bound pots but maybe I got sloppy. The funny thing is by the end of the season, this plant will show more growth than the other plant. It is a timing thing, I think. At any rate, feeling lucky today. Thanks again!



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