A Cercidiphyllum Autumn

Any time of year it is the time for trees, as autumn reaches it peak they have that moment when you stop and consider their beauty with wonder.  Every year feels like it is the first time I have seen their autumn colour and I hope that this sense of awe never dissipates.  I was looking from an upstairs window the other day and realised how beautiful the Cericidiphyllum japonicum, or Katsura tree was looking at the moment.  At that very particular moment, to be more precise, because the glory of autumn is fleeting and stands still for no one.
The colour of the candyfloss scented leaves makes a great focul point.  As I stood and thought about how much I love this view, I wondered whether joining the gap in the pleached hornbeans was such a good idea after all.  When successfully joined this view will no longer exist in the same way.  On saying that, the Cericidphyllum will itself be taller; the view continually evolves.  There in that thought it the great joy of all gardens, they shift and change, it is never quite the same one year to the next and that is their gift to us.  As things grow, die, flop, the view changes, the opportunities expand and nothing stays the same.
I wandered outside to appreciate the tree at a more friendly distance.  I love this tree more than is reasonable.  It has been in the garden nine years now, bought on the Isle of Man probably the last time I visited there.  The tree is beautiful for much all year, the new growth is delicate and delightful.  The heart-shaped leaves shine red and the stems that attach them to the tree continue this red thread.  The tree when fully leafed demonstrates dappled as if it was its middle name.  Then comes the autumn and the scent of candyfloss pervades the garden. Sometimes the scent is when I am close to the tree, sometimes it is when I not so close but a waft suddenly dances around me.  I realise that I am inhaling the scent and I stop and smile.  To own a Katsura is to love a Katsura.

This tree is a prince amongst trees.  It is maturing well now, and I take a step back and see it is much taller than I am.  It might eventually get to be over 20 metres tall, but that will probably be after I am long gone.  I just hope that future owners of this garden will look at this tree and smile.  If they cut it down I will haunt them - and that is a promise.


  1. Dear Alison
    This is one of my favourite trees too and I will have one in my garden one day (although not in my current garden, sadly). We are in good company - Geoff Hamilton said this was his favourite tree and there are several planted at Barnsdale. The candyfloss/toffee apple scent in autumn is wonderful.
    Best wishes

    1. Dear Ellie - if it has the GH seal of approval then it has to be good. I do think they are very special trees.

  2. The view of your garden - it's as if looking out into beautiful, forested countryside.
    The scent . . I agree about this tree's visual beauty but I'm not sure I'd be happy sitting in a garden while the smell of candyfloss hangs in the air.

    1. Thanks Lucy - it is not proper countryside I’m afraid but there is quite a good band of trees that creates my side boundary.

      I don’t find the candy floss scent unpleasant- I think because it’s on the breeze it never gets too strong - well so far any way.

  3. I've read a few posts lately about the joys of the Katsura tree and remembered how amazing the scent was from a visit to Westonbirt Arboretum several years ago (last time we visited we couldn't find the Cercidiphyllum - we had three children with us this time and things were a bit more chaotic! Then last weekend I went to my local garden centre and there was one - just one - Katsura in a pot. How could I resist?! I potted it up and am loving its colour right now. I think i'll wait till spring to finalise where in the garden to plant it. I did have a rough idea when I bought it but haven't narrowed it right down yet. Didn't stop me buying it though, it might only be 2 feet tall now but what a joy!


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