Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’
It has to be a tree! Trees have been in the news recently but sadly for the wrong reasons. Ash dieback could potentially have a devastating impact on our tree population, however we have a wide variety of beautiful trees so let’s celebrate this by highlighting one in particular, which has spectacular colour during the autumn months – Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’.
This is one of the best clones of Liquidambar (Sweet Gum) for autumn colour and form, a winner of the RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit) in both 1987 and 2002.
It’s glossy green deeply lobed (maple like) foliage turn rich plum tones, and afterwards, shades of orange and yellow before they fall. It has a pyramidal habit which is architecturally pleasing enabling it to work equally well as a stand-alone specimen or incorporated into a woodland setting.
The only real draw back of this tree is it’s size as it will happily grow to 25 metres (with a spread of 12 metres) so not suited for small gardens, it works particularly well in an urban setting where space allows. It is unusual in that it often bears fruit in this country, unlike many other forms. It also has corky bark which is a feature in winter months.
It is easy to grow, being tolerant of a wide variety of conditions (apart from alkaline soils or heavy shade), to maximise autumn colour plant in full sun and in soils that have a reliable source of water and are rich in organic matter.
Note: A liberal annual application of flowers of sulphur around the base of a Liquidambar at a rate of up to 2 oz. per square yard on neutral or slightly alkaline soils will slowly lower the pH and intensify the autumn colour.
When planting, incorporate lots of well-rotted manure or garden compost into the planting hole and stake firmly. It is low maintenance, requiring minimal pruning. Remove any broken, diseased or crossing branches in late autumn or winter.
Under-plant with spring flowering bulbs to add another season of interest.
Goes well with: Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’, Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’, Trillium grandiflorum, Pulmonaria longifolia.