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Kalmia Latifolia - Hardy Perennial

Author: John Wood

Kalmia Latifolia - Hardy Perennials and Old Fashioned Flowers

Kalmia Latifolia Described.

Kalmia Latifolia - Broad-leaved Kalmia; Nat. Ord. Ericaceæ.

An evergreen shrub, very hardy in our climate. It comes from North America, and from its dwarf character and free-blooming habit, it is not only one of the most useful shrubs, but may be freely planted in connection with herbaceous subjects, where it will help to redeem the deadness of beds and borders during winter. Like the rhododendron, it grows to various heights, according to the soil or situation in which it may be planted, but 18in. to 2ft. is the size at which it may often—perhaps most often—be seen producing its wealth of flowers. There are many fine flowering shrubs, but they do not gain the esteem in which this is held. Its large clusters of delicate flowers, surmounting dark shining foliage, and which seem almost too pure and beautiful to withstand the vicissitudes of the open garden, are its winning points; moreover, the flowers last several weeks in perfection. The flowers are arranged in broad panicles; the pedicels and five-cleft calyx are a bright brown colour, and furnished with short stiff hairs. The salver-shaped corolla, which is white, pleasingly tinted with red, has a short tube and five divisions, curiously cornered; the flower is fully ¾in. across, and in its unopened state is hardly less pretty than when blown. The leaves are borne on stout woody branches, have short stalks, and a bent or contorted habit; they are thick, leathery, shining, smooth, and of a dark green colour on the upper side; underneath they are a yellowish-green. In form they are elliptical and entire, being 3in. to 4in. long. Healthy specimens are well furnished with foliage; otherwise it is spare, and when that is the case the flowering is rarely satisfactory.

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Kalmia Latifolia

As this subject requires to be grown in moist vegetable soil, such as leaf mould or peat, it is useless to plant it where these conditions do not exist; moreover, the rule with species of the order Ericaceæ is to require a pure, or approximately pure, atmosphere. Doubtless these conditions will debar many from growing this shrub successfully; but I may add, where its requirements can be afforded, not only should it be freely planted, but it will probably thrive without any further care.

As a cut flower it is exquisite, if taken with a good stem and a few leaves; to many it may appear odd when I say it is too good to cut, but there are others who will comprehend me. The flowers can nowhere show to more advantage than on the bush, and it seems a pity to take its strongest branches for the sake of transferring the blossom.

It is a slow-growing subject, but easily propagated by layering the lower branches; no matter how old or hard the wood has grown, if pegged well down they will soon become rooted.

Flowering period, June to August.

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