Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: Lace and Powder Puffs

As those who've read my posts for some time know, I have a love-hate relationship with Albizia julibrissin (aka the mimosa or silk tree).  I inherited one of these trees with the garden and it occupies a prominent place in my backyard border.  For a brief period in late June or early July, it's a gorgeous confection of lacy green foliage and pink powder-puff flowers.  We're approaching that moment now.

The pretty pink blooms shine against the delicate green foliage

And the blue afternoon skies provide a perfect backdrop

The tree itself lends structure to my backyard border


The tree's allure is temporary, ending almost as soon as it begins, with both foliage and flowers dropping to produce a massive amount of litter.  Although the flowers aren't sticky like those of the Jacaranda, the dying flowers form ugly brown clumps as the flowers age.  And, beginning in late July, seedpods begin to fall, a process that continues until new flowers form the following year.  The brittle pods deposit seeds everywhere.  I have no statistics to demonstrate the viability of those seeds but I wouldn't be surprised if half of them produce seedlings.  I find them everywhere and live in fear of waking up one morning in a dense mimosa forest.

With trees like this looming above me (photo taken on my back slope looking upward toward the backyard border)


I pull the seedlings as soon as I see them but it wouldn't be hard to miss one, would it?

Nope!  This one is already 2 feet tall - and it's planted itself near the property line, on my neighbor's side...


This post is my contribution to the Wednesday Vignette hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum.  Visit Anna to see what images she's found to capture your attention this week.


All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

27 comments:

  1. Good afternoon! I was wondering if you would be interested in a guest blogging opportunity with Gardening Know How? If so, please e-mail me for more details at:
    shelley AT gardeningknowhow DOT com

    Thanks and hope to hear from you soon.

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  2. I grew up in a house that had a mimosa tree by the back yard patio and I adored it as a child. Granted, I never once had to consider cleaning up after it. I just loved the flowers and used the seed pods for my sand box tea parties.

    They are lovely while it lasts...

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    1. I don't think I could host enough tea parties to use all the seedpods that tree produces even if I invited the entire population of Los Angeles county to stop by, Deb.

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  3. My mimosa tree started blooming in early May this year and is approaching maximum mess levels. When it was surrounded by lawn, I didn't realize how messy it was. I don't mind sweeping the patio every day but all the plants underneath the canopy are covered by the drifts of brown fluff. A few more weeks until I start the big clean-up!

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    1. Yes, I neglected to mention what the litter does to the plants below. I'm already picking pink fluff out of my kangaroo paws and agave. I resorted to a plant vacuum last year...

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  4. Beautiful tree, and in a way fortunately it doesn't get much chance to be prolific here...

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    1. If only we had a little more chill in the winter to keep ours under control...

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  5. They do have a wonderful silhouette for a small tree, but like you, I am ambivalent - they look great in flower, but close-up are quite messy when not in bloom :-)

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    1. My tree-hating neighbor up the street "suggested" that the Albizia should be removed but it's such a feature in my garden, I wouldn't even consider that, much as I might prefer another kind of tree in that space. Given our drought, now isn't the time to either remove trees or try to establish new ones anyway. I'm learning to live with my messy Albizia, although I do intend to ask the neighbors if they have any objections to our digging out that seedling while we still can.

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  6. It is so beautiful. I grew one once which miraculously flowered for a few years before succumbing to frost. It never seeded around. I can see how it might become a nuisance but it is so lovely against the blue sky.

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    1. The one with chocolate foliage is prettier still but I wouldn't consider it here due to its prolific littering and rampant self-seeding. However, that might do well for you if you were willing to haul it under cover each winter.

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  7. It's a gorgeous tree. Here, it's the last thing to leaf out in spring and the first to loose it's leavs in fall. The powder puffs don's start appearing until the end of July here and continue for at least a month. Seed pods are seldom formed and when they are, they don't have time to mature before frost. I've heard that in warmer climates it's more of a weedy character.

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    1. You're right about its relatively short period in leaf, Peter. I have relatively few deciduous trees but, of those, the Albizia is far slower to produce new foliage and it literally starts to drop that foliage before it fully leafs out. For the majority of the year, its branches are bare but for its seedpods, which drop continuously until the cycle starts anew.

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  8. Beautiful tree, but I know what you mean. I have the same kind of love-hate relationship with the Japanese Snowbell I inherited. Love the fragrant, bell-shaped flowers, but the seedlings.... good god, the seedlings! They drive me crazy!

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    1. On the one hand, I admire the trees' ability to reproduce so freely but, yes, keeping after all the seedlings is a never-ending problem. It's amazing where these things find hospitable ground to take root.

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  9. It is a pretty tree when flowering, but only briefly. I've heard from others about its proliferation of babies. That is a pretty shot of the pink blooms.

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    1. I guess by comparison to perennials it offers a similar period of interest but, when compared to other ornamental trees, its time in the limelight is relatively short.

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  10. You had me running out to make sure my chocolate version wasn't thinking about blooming, thankfully no - then again as Peter points out ours are usually a little later to the garden party.

    As Anna notes Japanese Snowbelles create a great deal of seedlings (and litter) and lucky me, I've got two.

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    1. If yours has stayed in a pot, Loree, its disreputable littering habit will probably be manageable. It's great that frost prevents rampant seeding too.

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  11. I understand what you mean. It's pretty for a time, but creates quite a mess. Not the strongest trees, structurallt, either.

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    1. I've heard the tree tends to be short-lived but I'm not sure what that means (15 years?, 25?). Nor do I know how old this one is.

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  12. It's gorgeous... but seedlings are difficult. I had a lot of trouble with them in the Midwest - mostly oaks - I don't think I ever coped very well. Still, I would guess that your mimosa is providing some nice climate modification for the garden too, since its shade is fairly light and pleasant. Not a forest though... ;-)

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    1. It does add some shade during the hottest part of the summer, Any, which is useful; however, that shade is accompanied by the continuous fall of leaf and bloom litter on everything below, including people.

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  13. Litter I can forgive, but rampant reseeding, no. So many plants out there to try! It does look absolutely fabulous in your 3rd photo, though.

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    1. I've never seen anything that reseeds as freely as the Albizia - well, maybe Geranium incanum.

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  14. I can sympathize with the endless tree seedlings that need to be pulled up -- but who wouldn't love those pink powder puffs? -Jean

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    1. I just wish those pink powder puffs would remain on the tree a bit longer, preferably along with the lacy leaves.

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