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.
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 .
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.