I work in the middle of a very large city, surrounded by tower blocks and busy roads often filled with stationary traffic. I am lucky that where I work has a remarkable number of rather wonderful trees that I have appreciated since the first day I set foot on the premises. I wander in past a gingko or two, some rather nice Liriodendron and last Autumn they planted a nice set of six Parrotia Persicarias just in front of the main front entrance. They are good with trees.
As I walk to and from the car park every day (which also, it has to say, has some of the best car-park planting I have ever seen as it is mainly beds of perennial plantings) I pass several trees including a very fine willow, a couple of Sorbus Thibetica, some general laurel type things (I'm not a laurel fan) and then several of a tree that I could not identify mixed in with some Amalanchiers. I have been walking past these trees now for quite a while and they did not make much impact at first but gradually I started to notice them more and more.
The more I noticed them the more I wanted one. Yes I am that sort of gardener who falls in love with a plant and has to have it. Now I was a bit cautious about this as my garden in getting quite full, particularly of trees. These are not the tallest of trees though so after a while I decided where they could go. Well once that was decided there was nothing holding me back – I could go ahead and buy……
…….except there were a couple of small barriers. I still did not know what the tree was and that meant I also had no idea of cost either. Small details maybe, but fairly crucial. So I did what I usually do when I want to find something out, I googled ‘small tree autumn colour’ and this gave me lots of suggestions and some seemed quite close but none were quite what I was after. A couple of days later one of my twitter friends posted a picture of a very fine autumn foliage tree and the leaves seemed very similar, it was a type of Rhus. Aha I thought, that is it, or very close to it. I googled again, but no, I could not find one with the cream flowers that looked the same. I tried googling autumn foliage cream flower, that did not take me forward at all.
So I knew what I really needed to do, I needed to take a photo of the tree and post it on Twitter to see if someone could identify it for me. It then proceeded to be rainy and grey and horrid for days and when it wasn’t raining I was walking with a group of people who might think me a little odd photographing a random tree.
The day dawned, a bright day at last (one of the few bright ones left at that time in the morning for this year). I looked around and there were one or two people about but now I didn’t really care. If they wanted to ask me why I was photographing a random tree I would explain it was not a random tree, it was the tree, the tree I wanted to get this Autumn before the soil gets too cold to plant in.
Photo safely taken by mobile phone (I remember a time when I thought cameras on mobiles was a silly idea, I had a camera, why would I want to take pictures with my phone? ) I tweeted the picture asking for an ID.
and waited and then the replies started after maybe a whole 60 seconds had passed from the tweet being sent. A sorbus maybe? No not a sorbus, the leaves were similar but the flowers were not. A Stag Horned Sumac maybe, sadly no but what a fantastic name that is. I might have to get one of those just to be use the name. Then the answer appeared, Aralia Elata, the Japanese Angelica Tree. I confirmed this by googling the name and checking the images. Success! Much thanks was given to the namer. I still had some time before the day was due to begin so I quickly started looking for a nursery to buy one from as I still had no idea of price. My usual choice of a fairly local nursery had none in stock, I found another nursery also that I have used but I admit their postage rates are somewhat expensive and would have nearly doubled the cost of the tree. I refused to be downhearted on this, I tried the magic that is Ebay. Well, not a lot of choice but there were two, somewhat tiny trees on sale at £4 each. I thought that was a risk worth taking at such a good price.I purchased, they arrived very quickly and well packed. They are just what I wanted albeit rather small, well I say they are just what I wanted, at the moment they are two twigs I have no idea really if they are going to grow into what I think they are.