The nights are drawing in, my feet are cold and the golden rod (solidago ‘Fireworks’) is suddenly in flower. The start of the week was wet and windy and I didn’t pay much attention to the garden turning instead, to household matters. But high pressure has brought calmer conditions and clear nights (but not so much sunny days) that are cool. However, the effects of the warm summer are still with us and that brings me back to albizia.
The first time I ‘experienced’ Albizia julibrissin was in the garden of photographer Derek St Romaine and his wife Dawn. I worked a fair bit with them and I remember visiting their garden, in Surbiton, best known as the setting for ‘The Good Life’ (Surbiton, not their garden). It must have been August. I remember it was a hot, sunny day and we sat under a row of mature albizia. They were covered in a froth of delicate pink blooms and the ground under them was litter with the fallen flowers. It was like discovering an explosion in a candy floss factory. It was quite magical.
So it was with excitement that, many years ago, I got a ‘Summer Chocolate’ (previous post here). It is grown primarily for the finely divided dark foliage, of course, but I did hope that, one day, I would see flowers. Unfortunately, it was one of those plants that I was too worried about to actually plant (another tomorrow). It is totally stupid to buy a plant and then be scared to plant it in case it fails. It is like prevaricating over something that takes a long time to ‘do its stuff’. These should be planted immediately! So the albizia remained in a pot. As it turns out it was wise, to a point, because it meant it could move with me. But, at last, it has its place in the garden. It needs a hot summer to ripen the wood or it dies back a lot in winter. I don’t have a south- or west-facing wall which would suit it so well. But it is planted to the south of an evergreen, cotoneaster hedge. Of course, there was a problem because the hedge was planted at the same time and it had no benefit of protection at first. But plants grow, and the hedge is now 1.5m high and must be providing some protection if not the needed reflected and stored heat of a wall.
But in the heat of this summer, buds formed. I have seen buds before but they did not develop and just dropped off. But this year they have developed and a few clusters have opened.
I think the flowers are deeper pink than the normal form but they don’t seem as big as I remember – what does?
There are more buds to open but I am not sure if, with the current cool weather and northerly breeze, these others will actually open. It may be just a bit too late.
It would be nice if they did open but the foliage is the real reason to grow it and, now I have seen the flowers once I won’t cry if I don’t see them again for a while.