It is difficult not to be impressed by the magnificent cascades of yellow flowers pouring down the sides of a mature laburnum tree. During April and May laburnums are at their finest as they take over from the cherry blossom trees who have by now exchanged their inspiring spring blossoms for their lush green summer foliage to become the splendid yellow focal point of many British gardens! Their hanging branches sporting racemes heavy with cascading bright yellow flowers has given raise to the name Golden Chain or Golden Rain Tree.
Laburnum Tree Varieties
There are two natural varieties of laburnum – l. anagyroides – common laburnum and l. alpinum – scotch laburnum and one ornamental variety which is a cross between l.anagyroides and l.alpinum producing the laburnum tree seen in most gardens with the longer flower racemes characteristic to l.alpinum and the more bushy flower stems characteristic to l.anagyroides. The ornamental crossed variety is called Voss’s Laburnum – Laburnum x watereri and has the added advantage of producing fewer poisonous seeds than the two natural varieties.
Planting Your Laburnum
Young Laburnum saplings are readily available in most garden centres. Select a healthy looking specimen and plant it out as soon as possible. Choose a sunny position on a well drained soil for your laburnum and avoid soggy waterlogged ground at all costs as this will kill your laburnum tree. The Laburnum has adapted extremely well to the British climate and flourishes very well in most conditions.
In it’s natural setting the laburnum grows as a shrubby many branched tree. In the garden laburnums should be trained into the classic tree with a single central trunk crowned by long arching branches. This can be easily be done by pruning any odd branches and maintaining the shape of the canopy – the tree should not be pruned in the spring or summer – the best pruning time is early autumn or the very end of the summer.
Alternatively laburnums are sometimes trained to flow over a pergola or similar garden structure. More pruning will be required for this method than the simple tree canopy type.
A Word of Caution
All parts of the laburnum tree are very poisonous containing the deadly toxin cytisine. Although deaths from ingesting laburnum are extremely rare, care should be exercised when tending these trees. The seeds and pods which are the most poisonous part of the tree fall during autumn and are particularly attractive to young children. It is advisable to remove the pods in early summer as soon as the tree has finished flowering.