This site is for people who like plants -- growers, enthusiasts, aesthetes, novices and professionals, those who appreciate wild things and those who appreciate the cultivated. I garden in Chelsea, and I've been visiting people's yards for 20+ years in the course of my work. My goal is to make this blog a community project, so if you share my interests, please consider becoming a participant and contributing content -- Guerin. Info:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Carolina allspice and its Chinese cousin

Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus) is not a common ornamental, but it's a kick when you run into it. Here's the deal, though: smell before you buy. A good selection in flower will fill the air with a fruity strawberry-banana fragrance; other selections will have no discernible fragrance at all. Still, the woody-looking flower is pretty neat, once considered by botanists to represent a primitive condition (but the consensus on that might have changed). Michael Dirr is especially fond of this shrub: "Worthwhile plant for every garden. . . a trouble tree plant that can be meshed into any garden setting," he says. This photographed specimen is at the corner of Hill and E. University, which happens also to be one of the best locations in town for katsura trees.

A relative of Calycanthus that you are unlikely to casually stumble upon is this one from China: Sinocalycanthus chinensis known as Chinese sweetshrub. It's a clunky and coarse looking thing with a flower that looks like a fried egg. IMHO, it looks better in pictures than in real life. I had to swat a million mosquitoes to take this picture in my garden before I set off to work. Every time this shrub gets greedy for space, I cut it right back to the ground, and it keeps coming back for more.


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