Borde Hill Garden’s 93-year-old tree ready to bloom for fifth time thanks to heatwave

A 93-year-old tree at Borde Hill Garden is getting ready to bloom for only the fifth time in its life.

Friday, 17th September 2021, 10:52 am

Emmenopterys henryi, a deciduous tree native to central and South-Western China, was planted at Borde Hill, Haywards Heath, in 1928.

It is now in bud and is set to bloom because of the this year’s late-summer heatwave.

The tree was grown from seed collected by plant hunter George Forrest while he was in Southern China, who then sent it to his sponsor, Col Stephenson Robert Clarke of Borde Hill.

Emmenopterys henryi is set to burst into bloom thanks to the late-summer heatwave.

The Colonel’s great grandson Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke said Bore Hill was ‘incredibly lucky’ to see this flower bloom.

“My grandfather planted the 93-year-old specimen but never saw it flower in his lifetime,” he said.

“Neither did his son or grandson – we had to wait four generations before it first flowered in 2011.”

Andrewjohn said the Colonel would have been fascinated by the weather in Southern England this year and its effect on the plants at Borde Hill, adding that he had kept detailed notes of every seed and tree planted on the estate.

Emmenopterys henryi is set to burst into bloom thanks to the late-summer heatwave.

Close to Emmenopterys henryi is a smaller Emmenopterys, which is a specimen from Kew Gardens collected by Edwardian plant hunter EH Wilson at turn of the 20th century.

Andrewjohn said the Colonel would be thrilled to see Forrest’s Emmenopterys henryi in bud and about to bloom alongside its younger specimen in the 128th anniversary year of his garden.

“The cold winter, followed by our extended hot summer, may have helped to produce this year’s flowering,” he said.

“We hope that the blooms will attract tree lovers from far and wide,” he added.

EH Wilson described the Emmenopterys as ‘one of the most strikingly beautiful trees of Chinese forests’.

It has reddish-purple young shoots and red leaves in spring, which mature to green, producing small white flowers.

The blooms are expected to come out in the next two weeks.