This shrub was one of the first I planted in the garden. I remember calycanthus from my student days, large shrubs with strange, magnolia-like flowers that smelt of cider vinegar and large, rough leaves that were aromatic. It was a plant that had an effect on me far in excess of its ornamental value. The flowers are dull, wine red and the smells the plant produced were hardly ‘lovely’, though they were memorable, so when I saw ‘Hartlage Wine’ for sale it was an easy purchase. Calycanthus floridus is often called the Carolina allspice and ‘floridus’ means ‘lots of flowers’ and not that it is from Florida. The flowers are supposed to smell, not of vinegar, as I remember, but of strawberries, pineapple or banana. It is a large shrub, that suckers, and blooms in early summer. The name is derived from ‘calyx’ and anthus – flower, because the flowers have no differentiated sepals and petals.
Calycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’ or x Calycanthus raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’ is probably more common than C. floridus. The two options for the name derive from the fact that it was a hybrid between Sinocalycanthus chinensis and C. floridus, and is thus a bigeneric hybrid. But sinocalycanthus is now considered to be simply calycanthus so the ‘x’ has to move.
In any case it was bred in 1991 by Richard Hartlage, at the J C Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University, so commemorates two people. It has larger flowers than the American species and as they open they reveal inner petals tipped with white. More recent developments include the larger-flowered, and probably better ‘Aphrodite’ (2013) and the very desirable white-flowered ‘Venus’ (2005).
My ‘Hartlage Wine’ has had a tough time. Though hardy, the new growth is very vulnerable to late frosts which, in my garden, are the rule rather than the exception. The books say this blooms in May and into June with a smattering of flowers later but the new growths, which show flower buds in the tips, start to grow in spring here and get burned off. Even so, it struggles on and new growth eventually prevails and this produces a smattering of flowers, over many months. So my main flowering period is June into July and there are still buds coming. In autumn, the leaves do change to yellow before dropping.
Eventually a shrub 1.5m high and wide, my plant really needs a prune to shape it. This is best done after the main flowering period. But I am reluctant to cut any growth off since it has had such a tough time of it. Maybe I will wander past with the secateurs in my hands and do the deed one day soon.
Tolerant of clay soils, acid or alkaline, and sun or part shade, this is an interesting shrub. If I had room for just ten shrubs it would not get a look in but It is attractive and the large leaves provide an interesting texture. It is supposed to dislike windy sites but mine is in a very windy spot, though it will get less so as surrounding shrubs grow, and it copes. These photos hardly flatter this shrub but do show what it can do in less than perfect conditions and show what a tough plant it can be. I admire its stoic nature and hope that one year the weather will be kind to it and it can really show what it is capable of.