Kalmia Latifolia - Hardy Perennial
Author: John Wood
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.
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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