11 August 2012

In the Spotlight: Young's Twisted Birch

The above collage is a compilation of photos taken of our Young's Twisted Birch.  The peeling bark is an appealing feature as is the colour of the bark in contrast to the deep green shiny foliage.  I thought the black and white photo showed off the peeling effect to advantage.  This is one tree that I would plant again and totally recommend, particularly for a wet area of the garden.  It does love moisture, as all birches and willows do.

The Young's Twisted Birch does not grow with a curved trunk naturally, but rather it is trained while young using wires and stakes to create the effect.  Once it had reached the grower's desired height of just over six feet, it was allowed to trail down from there.  It will never grow taller but certainly will grow wider.

The above two photos were taken before I pruned the tree.  If you notice, it looks as though the birch has two arms and it is going to go for a walk just like the trees in Lord of the Rings.  (so my son said).

After pruning, it looks far better shaped.  It should stay put now.  ;)

Young's Weeping Birch (betula pendula 'Youngii')
Height: 20-30 feet  (determined through training)
Width:  15 - 20 feet (determined through training)
Fruit:  cone-like seed heads in fall
Flowers:  catkins (early spring)
Growth rate:  moderate to fast
Lifespan:  average
Fall foliage:  yellow
White peeling bark (may need protection from sun scald in the winter - wrap with a tree wrap)
Soil:  some sand to clay; moist and well-drained
Fertilizer:  while young, a birch should be fertilized with a higher phosphorus number (the second number listed) to encourage root development.  Trees should be fertilized every few years.  Do not fertilize after August 15 in zone 3/4 to ensure hardening off prior to winter.
Training to different shapes is possible
Also available in a twisted trunk form (as in photos above)
Excellent specimen

Zone 2 hardiness

As with all birches, those grown in lawns usually lack in water therefore extra care must be taken to provide water for this tree.  As with any birch, inadequate watering or a period of drought can cause the die back of the tree from the top down.  It isn't necessarily immediate, but may be seen a year or more after the drought period.  Once the tree is weakened and die back begins, problems with pests such as borers is potentially greater.  The key is prevention.  Plant birches in an area of the yard where the soil is the last to dry.  Water liberally to compensate for rainfall shortages.

Birches are also susceptible to warm soil temperatures.  They are somewhat shallow rooted trees, so I recommend mulching a few inches deep to keep soil cool and to help maintain a moist soil.  I use a shredded bark mulch around mine and it is planted in an area of the yard where it stays moist longer and receives shade in the late afternoon.  Warm soil temperatures can cause the outer leaves of the branches to turn yellow, also at the top of the tree, and then drop leaves, leaving the tree looking sparse.  The key is prevention, again.  Mulch and water.

Pruning is best done in July, when sap runs less heavily.  This is for aesthetic reasons, as earlier pruning can result in "bleeding" of sap, which will in turn attract insects.  It doesn't necessarily harm the tree to prune before July, nor after, but I always try to prune during July, unless I need to remove dead or broken branches.  Remember the rule of thumb:  no more than 1/3 of the overall tree is to be pruned during one year.  More results in a stressed tree.

Birch seeds are a good food source in fall and early winter, attracting birds such as: blue jays, chickadees, common redpolls, goldfinches, grosbeaks, pine siskins, and waxwings.  Note:  some people are allergic to the 'catkins' the birch produces early spring.

All in all, this is a beautiful specimen tree that I would highly recommend.


Sheila said...

I thought you'd be busy packing Shirley but as I look through your blog posts I missed I see you are making memories of the lovely garden that you're leaving behind. I hope that your move goes well!

Shirley said...

Thank you Sheila. I'm very late on responding but you're right. I took a lot of photos of this beloved garden.


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