Many years ago, when newspapers were all the rage, I would read carefully through all of the sections (except sports, eh), including the weird ads and the Parade. There was an ad for this fantastic looking tree that grows like 40 feet a year and has huge purple flowers all summer long. Our backyard didn’t provide much shade to the West, and this tree sounded perfect! Pretty and fast growing, what more could I want?So, like anyone sucked into these botanical ads, I filled out the form, sent it with my check to get a sapling, and waited. It arrived, we planted and, well, let’s say, the ad probably shouldn’t have been run in a Nebraska newspaper.
What did we get?
The tree I ordered has many names. Empress Tree. Royal Paulownia. Royal Empress. Empress Splendor. Or it’s Latin name, Paulownia tomentosa.
Unfortunately, RP looks noting like the gorgeous photo in the newspaper – it looks a lot like some wild hairy monstrosity with HUGE plate-like leaves. No purple flowers. And come frost the leaves fall off INSTANTLY, leaving a bunch of ugly, hollow sticks.
And each year, we cut those sticks to the ground (not an easy task, it’s an extremely hard wood), and every year, RP grows back thicker. Some years RP grows as tall as the house, other years, wider. This year (so far) RP is about 15 feet tall.
Everyone who comes over asks about this weird tree in our yard. So if nothing else, RP is a conversation point.
All this said, RP has some really cool leaves! They are heart shaped and in many sizes. The largest between 25-30 inches from point to point. And for several years I have said, I should cast those leaves into glass. This year I did.
I won’t bore you with all of the details of the casting process, of course if you are interested, feel free to reply and I’ll fill you in. And so far, out of all the leaves I’ve attempted to cast, I have only had one large mold make it to the kiln (the rest have broken in the process). The Royal Leaf is 25″ at the longest measurements and eggshell thin except for the area near and including the stem.
Here are a few photos. I will have The Royal Leaf mounted into an acrylic box so that light can come through, and most importantly it is protected from damage.
Royal Leaf Process Photos
The mold after I’ve pulled out the leaf, but before I’ve cleaned up the details – it weighed nearly 20 pounds wet, and was quite something to carry!
Right out of the kiln, before cleaning.
Photos my step-mom took by the window to show size and translucency.
You Made it to the End…
Doing a little more research, I’ve since learned that the Empress Tree is raised in Louisiana because of the fast growth, for the furniture industry. However, they are a bit invasive – as it turns out, NOT having big beautiful purple flowers has been a blessing for my neighbors, or we might have a huge forest of weird trees in the county!
Here’s a link to the chrysalis video I promised last newsletter: Monarch Pupating
Looking for something to stream? Check out Away on Netflix (grab a box of tissues) – ABSOLUTELY PHENOMENAL!
How about some music for your ears while you are out in the garden, walking or working in your studio? My Pandora Station of choice these days is Yaima. Here’s a link to their website.
And finally, I would be remiss to not share something honoring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. An artist friend California, Jamie Fingal, created this piece with one of Justice Ginsberg’s quotes. Please check out Jamie’s blog, Twisted Sister, she has great projects!