x-Liquidambar styraciflua 'Worplesdon'
One of the best trees for autumn colour, liquidambars have large, star shaped leaves that are a fresh green in spring and then light up the duller days of autumn with their multiple bursts of colour, as leaves turn purple, scarlet, orange and finally sunshine yellow.
'Worplesden' is one of the very best, an elegant, statuesque tree, prized for its autumn display and distinctive rounded outline once the leaves have finally fallen. It has also been awarded the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the RHS, something only given to outstanding garden plants and a sign that it is a tree that's well worth growing.
Although slow growing, 'Worplesden' will eventually reach 25m high and with careful pruning can be grown as a large shrub, meaning it can feature in smaller gardens as well as larger plots. Plant 'Worplesden' as you would any tree, in the dormant autumn and winter months, unless the ground is too cold to dig. Liquidambars perform best in full sun and in a sheltered spot, to help them keep their leaves for as long as possible, and also like a rich, damp soil, so add lots of organic matter, such as your own garden compost or well rotted animal manure to the planting hole, especially if your soil is on the light side.
Water the tree before planting and then remove the pot and tease out the roots, scraping off the top layer of soil from the root ball. Dig a hole that is the same depth as the roots but at least three times the width of the root ball and fork the sides and the base of the hole to loosen the soil. Plant the tree using the soil line mark on the trunk, which indicates the depth it was previously planted at, to get the depth right. Finally, fill in around the roots with compost, firming down as you go to eliminate any air pockets. Lack of water is the most likely cause of death for young trees so keep it well watered until it is established.
'Worplesden' is lovely planted as a specimen tree in a lawn shining out from the green grass and an under planting of bulbs will complete the picture perfectly. Try colchicums or cyclamen in autumn or snowdrops, aconites and crocus in late winter and early spring to compliment its bare statue once the wonderful leaves have all gone.