Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

White-flowered Enkianthus

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A bush for Fall foliage as much as for Spring flowers:  "White" enkianthus is white when in bloom in the Spring; it's a very jazzy burgundy much of the Fall.  Despite the almost wild eagerness of the overall growth below, this bush increases only slowly.  Mine is—gulp—eight years old already, and it's hardly more than an eighteen-inch mound on a twelve-inch stick.

 

enkianthus-perulatus-overall-640

 

If at all possible, then, have someone else plant Enkianthus perulatus a few decades before you buy your current property.  Darn, but I couldn't find my time machine, either, so had to settle for planting an exceedingly modest youngster. 

 

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Give me another decade or two, and I'll show pictures of a broad mound as tall as I am, glistening just like this close-up of my knee-high bush after last night's surprising late-October snow. 

 

 

Here's how to grow the most refined as well as restrained Enkianthus of all:


Latin Name

Enkianthus perulatus 

Common Name

White-flowered Enkianthus

Family

Ericaceae, the Heath family.

What kind of plant is it

Deciduous shrub.

Hardiness

Zones 5 - 7

Habit

Mounding, broad, and, most often, uniform, with the branches all growing outward at the same rate.  Sometimes dome-like and full to the ground, other times almost spherical and showing the bottom of the major branches.

Rate of Growth

Slow.  Really slow.

Size in ten years

Over many years, six feet tall and wide; after several generations, half again larger; probably to three feet tall and wide in the first decade.

Texture

Dense, restrained, and tasteful; unlike the more widely-available species, Enkianthus campanulatus, which is naturally upright and shows a fair amount of branch between clusters and tiers of foliage, E. perulatus is sculptural only if pruned to reveal its internal structure. 

Grown for

its Fall foliage:  The small leaves are a nondescript green all Summer, but color brilliantly in Fall.  I've mostly seen an intense garnet-burgundy, but others report bright orange as well.  The Fall foliage is notably long-lasting, too.

 

the Spring flowers:  Enkianthus campanulatus flowers are typically pink or even a muted red; the flowers of the "white" 'Alba' cultivar are actually cream.  E. perulatus flowers, though, are the real deal:  pure white.

 

its habit: Mounding and tidy; Enkianthus campanulatus, by contrast, is inherently upright, open, and sculptural.

Flowering season

Early Spring.

Culture

Full sun or part shade, in soil that's typical for Ericaceae: Loose and humus-rich.

How to handle it

Enkianthus perulatus is so small for so many years—and the charming but small flowers are in clusters that you just have to touch as well as smell—that your first temptation will be to plant it very near a pathway, or in a compact space overall.  But its habit is so naturally uniform that it would be a shame, indeed, if ten years down the road you had to spoil such geometric intensity by keeping one side pruned back just to maintain clearance. 

 

Instead, plant five feet back into a bed, and allow that much room at the rear as well.  Surround with smaller partners, such as ferns, epimediums, and small hostas, that will complement the bush without swamping it, and which can be removed as needed over the years to let the bush expand outward ever so gradually.  Underplanting the bush with low groundcovers, such as ajuga, pachysandra, or galium, will help keep the ground around it free of weeds as well as cool even in hot weather.  Because the Fall foliage season is quite long, don't maroon the bush (as I did) amid herbaceous plantings that will go dormant and leave it surrounded by bare dirt.  The large and deep-green foliage of hellebores is at its height in the Fall, and would be a terrific contrast. 

 

Gardeners who have the time and the yen for it could enhance the bush's naturally smooth profile with fine-grained pruning.  New growth is in whorls with a central vertical shoot.  Pinch off that vertical, just like you'd pinch off soft growth in asters or mums, letting the whorls fill in tighter and tighter.

 

Gardeners who would welcome a project of decades could prune  Enkianthus perulatus into a multi-cloud bonsai.  This combines pinching the whorls to maximize the density of an individual cloud with pruning away nearby growth to reveal that cloud's supporting branch.

 

Like all Ericaceae, Enkianthus welcomes rich and well-draining soil, plus a good watering once a week during the dog days.  Afternoon shade or even dappled shade all day would be a good choice if you're gardening in Zone 7. 

Downsides

Enkianthus perulatus is slow growing and, if you're like me, you probably also forgot to plant one twenty years ago.  No time like the present, though.

 

The fragrance of Enkianthus campanulatus flowers is difficult to detail politely; High School Locker Room is my best effort of the day.  My E. perulatus is just old enough to bloom; I'll confirm its fragrance in a Spring post. 

Variants

'Compacta' is shorter and much slower.   

Availability

On-line and at nurseries.

Propagation

By seed in the Spring.  

Native habitat

Enkianthus perulatus is native to Japan.  

 
 
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