A dawning realisation of roaming roots

PRETTY IN PINK: Populus candicans Aurora.
PRETTY IN PINK: Populus candicans Aurora.
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A century ago, no-one had seen or heard of Populus candicans ‘Aurora’. Then, in the 1920s, it appeared on the scene and now it is a common sight in many gardens.

It is grown primarily for its leaves which, when young, look as though they have been splattered with cream and pink paint.

So far, so good.

Unfortunately, this clone or cross of the Balsam Poplar (Populus Balsamifera) can easily reach 20m (60ft) and bring with it all the problems associated with poplars, which, like willows, have very invasive root systems.

Populus candicans ‘Aurora’ will tolerate waterlogged and heavy ground but will also grow well in good deep loams.

But if you are prepared to keep it in check, or give it plenty of room, Populus candicans ‘Aurora’ can be a stunning tree.

Although it’s vigorous, it can be managed to limit size. In fact, it responds quite well to routine hard pruning of the shoots in winter, which should result in a wonderful display of new foliage the following spring. But to get the best results you have to start while the tree is still young – or you will end up with leaves that are almost all green.

So, it’s a case of annual pruning to shape. You may have left it too late for your tree, but if it is too big, you probably have no alternative other than to try.