Catalpa trees have been a part of our garden for several years.
The very first effort to grow them came with seed Bill brought back from Holland. They turned out to be the Southern Catalpa(C. bignoninoides). They grew pretty well, but were and are very prone to winter kill. Subsequently they grow into a shrubby type of plant rather than a stately tree. Their huge leaves are a joy. We still have a couple of rather poor looking specimens.
A more successful growing attempt came when we obtained seeds for the Chinese catalpa(C.ovata) from Garden's North in about 1998. These grew very quickly into trees, and often bloomed by their third year.
All the catalpas bloom very late. In recent years, it seems they are even later than usual.
They are also very late to leaf out, leading one to wonder if they have died over the winter. That has never happened, but it is strange to see skeletal forms when all the other trees and shrubs are fully dressed.
Here are one or two with no sign of leaves in early June last year....a rare misty morning.
The Chinese catalpa readily forms big seed pods which yield lots of viable seed.
These will often self seed, so we often find cute little volunteers here and there throughout the garden. There aren't a lot so it isn't a problem. We usually just dig them. pot them and sell them at our annual plant sale.
The other species of catalpa we grow is the Northern Catalpa(C. speciosa). It is the hardiest and largest of the three species. It grows very quickly and forms a large tree . They may get to be 75Ft. or more. Our biggest one bloomed just a bit this last summer. I don't seem to have a picture! It is located at the far extremity of the garden, and seems to be behind me most times when taking pictures. This rather poor example with the red arrow shows its position, very early in the season.
The image below is a young C. speciosa. Their leaves are very large and bean-like, very similar to those of the Southern catalpa. The seed pods are many times larger than those of C. ovata also.
Our Northern catalpa were grown from seed collected in the town of Antigonish, some in 2003 and 2004.
The one tree we knew of there has been removed, but we have noticed new suckers growing from the stump!
The only downside we have noticed is that the C.ovata will suffer breakage when subjected to gale-force or hurricane-force winds in the late summer or early fall. We have one in particular that has lost some quite sizable branches due to wind.