I’m continuing to read through The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell, the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club November selection.
I ran across a paragraph that I could just not believe, and had to re-read several times and then go back and read it in context. I am still somewhat dumb-founded.
Henry is recommending the Lombardy Poplar, Populus nigra, as a good tree for the garden! What?!
And I quote: “But no matter what you hear or read, I am here to say flatly that there is no more exciting or lovely tree in all the world than the Lombardy Poplar, and if the gardener is going to lose his head and ruin the roses forever, at least this poplar is a comprehensible infatuation”.
A "comprehensible infatuation"? It is? On what planet? To be fair, Mr. Mitchell does discuss how the tree has shallow roots, has been overplanted, has weak branches that break off in storms or the whole crown breaks off so it no longer has its distinctive columnar form. So, he isn’t hiding the tree's flaws.
Here’s what I think of the Lombardy Poplar. Buy a chain saw at the same time you buy the trees, because before you know it, you will need the chain saw to cut down what I consider one giant woody weed! And do “real trees” really come in packages of a dozen bare root stems? I don’t think so, but that’s generally how I’ve seen these sold.
I’ve never liked the Lombardy Poplar, and can’t even think where I might have seen it growing recently. I think it has fallen out of favor, or at least I hope so! We had some in our backyard when I was growing up, but they were all cut down after just a few years, because they were a mess. And that upright form? My recollection is that they always seemed to be leaning in whatever the direction the prevailing wind pushed them.
If you want a tree with a nice columnar upright form, surely there are better choices than the Lombardy Poplar! I did a quick search for “fastigate trees” and came up with this list in short order. When you look up info on the Lombardy Poplar, you see comments like “short-lived”, “plant as a wind screen until slower growing trees mature”, etc. So I guess it has its place as a “temporary tree”, but not as a tree you plant for generations to follow.
So, that’s how my reading is going. I agree with some things, disagree with others, but overall, I’m enjoying the book. Anyone else started reading?