BETULA continued
last updated 20/10/2014

BETULA albosinensis 'Bowling Green' 
The species albosinensis is a classic, originally introduced from China in 1910 by renowned collector Ernest Wilson makes a medium tree with glossy leaves on slightly rough shoots. This lovely selection has rich chestnut bark, with similarly coloured buds and catkins which are freely produced. Rich outer bark peels to reveal a paler honey-coloured under layer. I’ve read that this selection traces back to the original Wilson 4106 collection from W. Sichuan, though I’m not sure of the detail. However, it does seem that this is not the most accommodating cultivar to grow in cultivation.

BETULA albosinensis septentrionalis 'China Rose'

BETULA albosinensis septentrionalis 'China Ruby'
Considerably less vigorous than the species, so eminently suited to small gardens, this is a very dramatic tree. The rich pink bark can appear almost scarlet when wet. This then peels to reveal creamy-white under-bark that is tinged with grey and pink. The leaves are less glossy than some and a rather bluish green, whilst the twigs are much more “warty” than is usual.

NEW BETULA albosinensis 'Chinese Garden' 
Reputedly from the same batch of seed as ‘Bowling Green’, this one is much better behaved. The rich pinkish bark is even darker than that of ‘Bowling Green’, so is preferable in all respects. Apparently, although its introduction dates back to 1910, this clone wasn’t actually named until some 80 years later. Can that be right?

BETULA albosinensis 'Fascination'
It seems to me that when you acquire a new plant, you have a choice. You continue to grow it as the name it had when you bought it, or you check whether that name is correct. Of course the latter would be the sensible thing to do, and the internet gives us access to so much information. But that’s the problem. Too much information when so much of it seems to be conflicting! Originally attributed to B. utilis, as a young plant it seemed to tally with that classification. In recent years I’ve become aware of it being listed as an albosinensis cultivar, and as our plant has matured, I’m now starting to see the possible relationship with that species. The outer bark may be a rich mahogany, but underneath there lies the distinctive silvery pink characteristic of B. albosinensis. The maturing limbs and canopy have a grace to them that is so often absent from utilis too. Clearly confusion and debate continues because Plantfinder lists it twice… under both species. Oh dear. But don't let my taxonomic quandary put you off a very distinctive and beautiful selection.

BETULA albosinensis 'Joseph Rock'

BETULA albosinensis 'Kenneth Ashburner' 
A vigorous, upright selection. The cinnamon coloured bark peels to reveal a pinky red under layer which is initially covered in a white bloom, giving a silvery pink effect.

BETULA albosinensis 'Ness' (Clone F) 
Also upright in habit, the rich chestnut bark peels to reveal a rich pink under- layer beneath the ghostly white bloom. For me, this is the pinkest of the cultivars of B. albosinensis that we grow (so far!)

BETULA albosinensis 'Pink Champagne'
Also from the Ness Gardens seedlings, this selection from seed collected by the Chinese Forestry Service in the Gansu province of China really stands out amongst its peers. The bark becomes an intoxicating hard to describe, but paling beneath a white bloom over the surface.

BETULA albosinensis 'Red Panda'
These plants are derived from the spectacular specimen growing at Wisley RHS Garden. I understand that the original seed was collected in the early nineties by Steve Sponberg as part of a Sino / American expedition, from the Shennongjia national park in Hubei, China. It as named by Jim Gardiner, then curator at Wisley, after the red pandas who inhabit that locality, with an oblique reference to the bark colour. 

BETULA albosinensis var. septentrionalis 'Kansu'
This is a wild collected selection of good vigour. The bark becomes coppery-tan overlaid with a distinct bloom.

BETULA albosinensis var. septentrionalis 'Purdom' 752
This graceful tree develops a light airy canopy (great for underplanting). The deep maroon-pink bark has a blue-white bloom. I find this selection to be much smaller and slower growing than the others. In fact, I'm inclined to describe it as "weaker" which goes some way to explaining why it's not available!

BETULA apoiensis 'Mount Apoi'
Previously attributed to B. ermanii, this one has been elevated to specific status. This Swedish selection is extremely hardy and surprisingly dwarf, making it an excellent choice for a smaller space. The orangey red bark peels away to reveal a pale tan layer beneath. It is naturally very free-branching, developing a multi-stemmed shape all by itself. I think it's an excellent plant that shoudl be better known, with tremendous potential in a small garden.

BETULA cordifolia 'Clarenville'
Another name change here - B. cordifolia was previously listed as a variety of B. papyrifera. Selected from wild collected seed in the Clarenville area of Newfoundland, this is quite different to the usual paper birch. In fact it more closely resembles B. ermanii in the way the pale golden-orange bark peels. This is a sturdy tree, with thickly textured hear-shaped leaves, each apparently stamped with deep veins.

BETULA dahurica ' Maurice Foster'
Rich red shaggy stems peel to reveal a silvery grey underbark. A lovely contrast. Well suited to northern, colder areas.

BETULA dahurica 'Stone Farm'
A Chinese species usefully more tolerant of drier soils than many other birch. The very dark bark exfoliates in curly cinnamon like flakes to reveal a pinky layer beneath. Relatively compact habit and twiggy growth make this a great choice for a more difficult site.

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