If there was a people’s choice plant from our garden openings this summer then this would win it by a landslide. No one had seen it before, everyone wanted to know what it was and a few declared their intention to get one if they could.
It comes from China where it was discovered by Delavay in 1887, then introduced by Forrest in 1914. According to Bean it grew at Kew but was killed to the ground by hard frosts, growing up again from the roots. Nick Macer (Pan Global Plants) describes it as recently re-introduced from China and Crûg Farm Plants list it, having grown it from seed collected in Yunnan. Roy Lancaster also saw it growing in China and refers to subsequent introductions.
My plant was purchased from Treseder’s Nursery three years ago and spent its first winter with me in a pot in my tunnel. Planted out in spring 2020 it made good growth but unfortunately in the winter was blown to an alarming lean. I staked it and cut all its new growth back to around 15cm from where they arose from the main stem. It has regrown very strongly, with numerous stems over a metre long. These have been flowering since July and in mid September there are buds still to come. It was probably at its best in mid August.
It was planted in an open sunny position, in free draining soil, as per every recommendation I could find. Hardiness doesn’t seem to be an issue here in Cornwall but it seems that even if it does suffer damage, it will regrow, even from the ground if the top is completely killed.
The stems carry pinnate leaves, well spaced and with small leaflets, creating a light and graceful effect. My bush is 2.4m tall, about half of which is this year’s growth. I plan to shorten it again in late winter and expect it to reach 3-3.5m eventual height.
The flowers are carried in long racemes on the new wood, the flowers opening from the basal end of the raceme. Most racemes are between 30 and 40cm; the longest I measured at 57cm. When the flowers are spent they fall off, so the older racemes have a long length of slender bare stem, then a section of blooms, then the remaining unopened buds. The flowers are a somewhat subdued shade of pink, easily outshone by brighter colours.