Gardening: Easter treat a stunning, spicy shrubBy Linda Fort
April 29, 2011
Monday was the day when I committed an Easter ‘egg-stravagance’.
I was in a garden centre intent on buying a present for my mother, but I had put some gardening vouchers in my pocket, just in case I saw something tempting.
Well, dear reader, I did – and it was one of those rare, vanishingly rare, occasions when I wished I had a mobile phone with internet access.
There before me, placed by the wily garden centre proprietor just where I would see it, was a Sinocalycanthus raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’ just begging me to buy it.
May I add it was incorrectly labelled without the raulstonii and with Hartlage spelled Hartledge, but I am nitpicking.
This stunningly beautiful deciduous shrub with fresh green lilac-like leaves and magnificent wine-coloured blooms – three inches across – was calling to me.
The price was £17.99 and I have only ever spent that on a well-researched and meticulously planned tree before now.
But the vouchers were in my pocket and I succumbed.
This garden centre, Henry Street in Arborfield Cross, is an excellent one so I hailed a passing nurseryman and asked if the plant was hardy.
“Yes,” he replied with conviction – and I believed him, because it is that kind of garden centre.
On returning home, research revealed this is indeed a hardy plant. A very helpful site called The Bridgemere Gardening blog said a customer who had bought the plant three years before reported it had “sailed through this last cold winter” – that is to say winter 2009/10.
I don’t know whether it survived the most recent snows of November 2010 because the blog predates that, so we shall have to see.
Other advice suggests it likes a warm spot in full sun or dappled shade, it is reasonably hardy but should be protected from cold winter winds, it likes a well-drained, moist, fertile soil but does not like a shallow chalky soil, it flowers from May to June and it grows to 3m in height with a 2m spread.
None of this was on the label.
There is a little warning from one nursery that suggests the leaves might attract slugs.
Its common name is the raulston allspice and this particular variety was developed in North Carolina.
It is a hybrid of the rare Chinese Sinocalycanthus sinensis and the American calycanthus or allspice.
None of my encyclopaedias says a word about it.
The best news of all is that it appears to produce a second flush of flowers in July. The leaves also fade to “pleasant shades of yellow”.
All this bodes pretty well for the future and my only problem now is... where on earth am I going to put it?