Albizia julibrissin rosea - The Silk Tree
Albizia julibrissin is a small deciduous Mimosa tree to 3-4m in height, with ferny foliage and soft pink powder puffs of flowers in summer. Why The Silk Tree? The flowers look silky? Nobody seems to know.
There's much misunderstanding surrounding this tree and its ability to be grown in Britain. It's perfectly hardy but there's confusion surrounding the fact that it comes from a part of the world where the summers are hotter and the winters are colder than here (Afghanistan through to Korea) - therefore the seasons are more clearly defined. The result in Britain is predictable : they're very slow to come into growth in the spring and the new wood at the end of the summer doesn't always ripen so it could get a bit of frost damage. This seems to have lead to the belief that they're not fully hardy. Not true. But it DOES mean that this tree only looks good for July, August, September and October and in the spring you might want to cut off any frost damaged tips of branches. The very distinct low and spreading habit of the canopy makes it perfect for creating shade in the summer months and the best one can say about it in the winter is that it's so un-twiggy, you'll hardly notice it. Just give it light and space. One more thing : everyone agrees that buying root-wrapped plants (been in their pots too long) is a bad thing and broadly speaking this is true although many plants have the ability to recover once they're in the ground. Not so with Albizia. We always put them in what might appear to be unnecessarily enormous pots and for very good reason. In my experience, a constipated Albizia will never recover. All our plants are grown from seed in containers.
Wood that has failed to ripen in autumn - the very tips - are the bits that are likely to get killed by frost and it's in the nature of this plant for those dead bits to get a fungal infection called Coral Spot : instantly recognisable - little orange spots. Cut the affected bits off and burn them. That's all you need to do.
Sadly, I know of no good specimens that can be seen in public. We once found a very fine one in Worthing but I've been unable to locate it. I have two very fine ones in my garden. If anyone knows of any in a public place, please drop us a line.
When clipping several plants with the same tool, have a bucket containing a 5% bleach solution and swish your blades around for 30 seconds between plants to sterilise them. This will help avoid the chance of cross contamination of disease.
As with all woody plants, plant high exposing as much of the taper at the base of the trunk as possible. Allowing soil to accumulate round the base of the tree can be fatal.
IF IT HAS A GREEN TRAFFIC LIGHT
Hardy anywhere in Britain below approximately 1000ft (300m)
This is only meant as a guide. Please remember we're always on hand to give advice about plants and their frost hardiness.
Please remember that these coloured labels are only a rough guide.
General Point about Plant Hardiness: The commonly held belief that it's better to 'plant small' is perfectly true with herbaceous plants, but not necessarily true with woody plants. They need some 'wood' on them to survive severe cold - so plants of marginal hardiness in very cold areas should really be planted LARGER, rather than smaller, wherever possible.
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