Wednesday 13 December 2017

Read all about China's paper bush

Crowning glory: Paper bush's beautiful flowers
Crowning glory: Paper bush's beautiful flowers

Gerry Daly

The paper bush gets its common name because of its traditional use in its native China for making very high quality paper, highly regarded both in China and Japan for artwork and, at one time, for printing banknotes in Japan.

The paper quality is due to its very flexible fibres and these allow the plant a special trick. The branches can be bent in practically any way and can even have a knot tied with them.

Indeed, the branches have such a lovely structure of their own. This is sometimes described as a triple-branching. The branches have a habit of branching three ways, one branch to each side and one upwards at an angle. This is repeated each year, building a very distinctive and decorative structure of branches.

The branches are relatively thick, which also emphasises their style.

The paper bush has an Irish connection because its botanical name is Edgeworthia, named in honour of Michael Pakenham Edgeworth.

He worked in the Indian Civil Service and took an interest in botany, collecting plants and sending seeds back to Ireland. He was a half-brother of the writer Maria Edgeworth, and the family lived at Edgeworthstown, Co Longford.

The full botanical name is Edgeworthia chrysantha, the second part meaning 'yellow-flowered', and sometimes it is given the second part of papyrifera, which means 'paper-making'. The flowers are the crowning glory of a handsome plant, forming a cluster of small tubular florets, attractively held at the tips of the branches. The flower clusters hang on a short stem, upside down, and are covered with long silvery hairs that protect the flower buds before they open, and for months before the opening, the silvery umbrellas are prominent.

The first flower tubes open at the outside of the nodding cluster. They are a pretty soft-yellow colour, sometimes tinged with red to give a deeper yellow-orange colour, and some clones make light brick-red flowers.

All kinds are decorative, although the yellow stands out best in the garden, and it is the most popular kind. The flowers are wonderfully fragrant with a sweet spicy scent that carries a distance on a mild day. The longish leaves are produced after flowering and can be quite late to open.

The paper bush is easy to grow in good fertile, well-drained, humusy soil in the shelter of trees or other bushes as it is a woodland native plant. It is not fully hardy and high trees overhead give some protection.

It needs good light too though, especially if it is to flower well. It looks best bare-branched, in flower, but it is pretty in leaf too.

Usually less than a couple of metres, it widens with age. It can be grown in a pot as a conservatory plant.

Sunday Independent

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