Not quite the same

The turn of the calendar to August, and flowering of Gordlinia (x Gordlinia grandliflora) remind me of the slow demise of the Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha) that was planted by the garden’s shed on the lower end of the koi pond. Though the cause of death cannot be determined with assurance, I suspect that a gradual change when a spring beneath the shed increased its flow, dampening the surrounding soil, was the culprit.

Tiger swallowtail on Franklinia flower in August

In the years since the Franklinia was lost, efforts have been made to improve drainage in the area, but there are also new plantings that are more moisture tolerant. A replacement tree of suitable size could not be found, so the best alternative was the Gordlinia, a hybrid between the shrubby gordonia and Franklinia. Similar, but not the same, and certainly not planted in the same area .

While flowers of Gordlinia (above) are nearly identical to Franklinia’s, the foliage is lighter in color and less glossy with little autumn color.

First, Gordlinia is more shrub than tree, and though the flowers and foliage are close, Franklinia displayed splendid autumn foliage color, and Gordlinia shows very little. Also, the story behind Franklinia is of interest (relating to Benjamin Franklin), while the intergeneric hybrid is only slightly out of the ordinary.

There is not a thing wrong with Gordlinia, and if the Franklinia had survived Gordlinia would still be a treasured addition to the garden. But, given the choice between the two, I’d choose Franklinia every time.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    This is the first mention of a Franlinia I have read in a very long time. There were only two or three stock plants at the farm, but we never brought it into production. There would not have been significant demand for it here where no one knows what it is.

    1. Dave says:

      I have never seen another in a landscape, and I very rarely see one grown for resale.They do not transplant well, so years ago when we purchased a small number, half died on our lot. Mine survived for years until its unfortunate demise, and then I couldn’t find another to replace it.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        So, it is probably just as well that we did not grow it. We do not do well with crops that are not easy to grow, or that do not want to be contained. We grew magnolias many years ago, and it was disastrous!

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