Vanessa’ is a selection of Persian ironwood that develops a more upright, columnar habit than the species. This durable tree is beautiful in every season, as its foliage, branch structure and bark are all exceptional. Its leaves are oval shaped with somewhat scalloped edges. They emerge green edged with burgundy, maturing to midgreen in summer. In late August, they begin their sensational autumn display, turning bronze, then crimson, followed by orange and finishing brilliant gold. This show goes on into October. Its branching habit is irregular, providing an eye-catching change from most shrubs and trees. In winter, when its exfoliating grey-and-tan bark is revealed, this picturesque tree makes a dramatic feature. Its tiny, spidery, red flowers are produced in late winter and early spring, before the leaves. Although it is related to witchhazels, its flowers are not fragrant.


From The Telegraph


My Kew Garden Project… choosing the right tree

I’m pondering which tree to use in the Mediterranean garden I’m planting in Kew; it isn’t a large space and a small tree, and maybe a columnar, fastigiate tree would fit well. This form of the Persian Ironwood, Vanessa, is more upright than most and the autumn colour ought to be good (some sources say it is not as fiery as the straight species though). I love the unusual flowers – but perhaps something that might herald spring a little more joyously would be more appreciated by the family living there. A flowering cherry, or Amelanchier, the snowy mespilus?

There is a tall brick wall to factor in, the gable end of another house – and against this backdrop a silver birch would provide a strong winter silhouette, a light canopy and buttery yellow autumn finish. A multi-stemmed specimen maybe…

Thinking of the Mediterranean aspect to the planting, and really I should – I could consider olives but there is already an old, gnarled specimen there. Tall spires of cypress? A column of yew? Perhaps the willowy-grey, weeping form of ornamental pear – Pyrus salicifolia pendula. Hmm.

In the meantime, time to appreciate and enjoy the unusual flowers of the Persian Ironwood, Parrotia persica ‘Vanessa’, giving a clue to the family ties with the witch hazel (Hamamelis) family. A fragrance would be nice though.

Welcome to February