Saturday 10 December 2016

In the garden: Shrimp-pink sycamore

Gerry Daly

Published 08/05/2016 | 02:30

Shrimp-pink young foliage of Acer pseudoplatanus 'Brilliantissimum'
Shrimp-pink young foliage of Acer pseudoplatanus 'Brilliantissimum'

A small tree that is really catching the eye these days is the shrimp-pink sycamore. This small, slow-growing tree produces a most dramatic display of new foliage, opening pink red from the buds and slowly expanding the leaves over three to four weeks. It is right in the middle of the display now, delayed perhaps one week by the cold, late spring, but not much more than that.

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It is a sight to see, every bit as showy as the magnificent foliage of the much-admired Japanese maples. It is much more wind-resistant than these, its parent being one of the most wind-resistant broadleaved deciduous trees. It also carries pretty yellow-green flowers as it gets older.

The new leaves have a somewhat jagged look, because of their pointed leaf lobes, and this adds an exuberant note to the display. Pink-red at first, they turn a soft shade of shrimp pink and then the pink colour washes out slowly to leave a creamy-yellow colour.

In turn, this gradually fades as the leaves make more green chlorophyll and turn green.

It is really the absence of green that allows the leaves to express their other base colours with red and yellow pigments. It is the reverse of autumn-colouring when the chlorophyll washes out.

And it is a true sycamore, though it is hard to imagine the pink version as being related. The ordinary sycamore is very plain by comparison. In spring, it has the green chlorophyll aplenty, though it shows a red flush on the younger leaves when they first expand.

Sycamore is Acer pseudoplatanus, with the name 'Brilliantissimum' added for the pink variety, and this name, which means most brilliant, is very apt. Sycamore is the tree that commonly gives 'helicopters' or flying seeds that can spin a distance from the parent tree.

It is often a nuisance in gardens where the seeds fall from mature trees and germinate. These must be weeded out while still seedlings as they grow fast. The sycamore is native to Europe but has been well established here for centuries. Its shrimp-pink variety arose in England a little over a century ago.

All specimens are grafted, with the pink form growing on a plain green rootstock. Usually grafted on a short stem, the little tree takes a rounded shape. It is easily pruned, if that is desired, for a small garden. Choose a spot where it can be seen to good advantage when it is in colour. Locate a few orange-pink tulips nearby for a heightened colour effect.

There's an ugly growth on my lawn

Q. I have a 'growth' on my lawn and have no idea what it is. It is crusty, rolled back and dark grey to white. Can you suggest how I get rid of it?

R Bryan, Carlow

A. This is lichen. It is not a disease, just growing there. It is a sign the grass is weak and hungry. Give the grass an application of lawn feed to help it to out-grow the lichen, and, if you wish, use a lawn moss-killer which will clear lichen too.

Send your questions to gerrydaly@independent.ie. Questions can only be answered on this page.

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