Thursday, 14 July 2016

MELBOURNE STREET TREES 153 - WINTERSWEET

Chimonanthus (wintersweet) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Calycanthaceae, endemic to China. It is also grown in Iran, called "ice flower" and probably imported from China. The genus includes three to six species depending on taxonomic interpretation; three are accepted by the Draft Flora of China. The name means winter flower in Greek.

They are deciduous or evergreen shrubs growing to 2–13 m tall. The leaves are opposite, entire, 7–20 cm long and 3–7 cm broad. The flowers are 2–3 cm wide, with numerous spirally-arranged yellow or white tepals; they are strongly scented, and produced in late winter or early spring before the new leaves. The flowers are said to be edible, and can be used to flavour tea. The fruit is an elliptic dry capsule 3–4 cm long.

Chimonanthus praecox, "wintersweet", is the only species widely grown as an ornamental plant, for its spicily scented winter flowers; these are also used in floristry as cut flowering branches, which can also be forced as with forsythia. The petals are quite waxy. The plant prefers medium exposure to sunlight or high dappled shade, a fresh climate (hardy to USDA Zone 7), and soft, acidic permeable ground not waterlogged in winter. A protected, south-facing wall encourages early flowering, and a position should be chosen where its spicy perfume can be appreciated while coming and going from the house. Space needs to be allowed for its eventual spread to 3 m, since untimely summer pruning to keep an ill-sited shrub in check will sacrifice flowering the following winter.

In China Chimonanthus was domesticated during the Song Dynasty and inspired courtly poems from the eleventh century; it flowers at the Chinese New Year, when flowering sprigs are used as hair ornaments. In China, prunings are dried and kept to perfume linen cupboards. The shrub was introduced to Japanese gardens from China in the early Edo period (probably between 1611 and 1629, according to Garden Plants of Japan).

Its introduction into European gardens, from Japan, is noted for England, 1766, when it was grown under glass for the sixth Earl of Coventry in the conservatory at Croome Court, Worcestershire. By 1799 that shrub had grown to be 16 feet high and 10 feet wide. By that time it had been tried out of doors without winter protection and proved hardy in the south of England. Slips of it were distributed among nurserymen and so it entered European horticulture. A larger-flowered (though less fragrant) variety, "grandiflorus" was grown by the comtesse de Vandes in Bayswater, London, before 1819. A yellow-flowered variety (luteus, 1814) is also noted.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.




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