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Tom Clark (2023)
Clark, T. (2023), 'Enkianthus campanulatus' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.
Deciduous shrub 2–5 m tall. Branchlets terete, glabrous. Leaves alternate on long shoots, generally crowded near apex on short shoots, thickly membranaceous; petiole 3–10 mm long, sparsely brownish pubescent or glabrous; blade obovate, 2–5 cm long, 1–2 cm wide, apex short acute and terminating into a gland, base gradually narrowing, attenuate into petiole, with many minute acute hair-like aristate teeth, sparsely pilose on both surfaces, with brown crisped pilose hairs along nerves. Inflorescences terminal, racemose, with about 10 flowers, 2–3(–6) cm long, pendulous. Peduncle and pedicels with sparse brown crisped pilose hairs. Bracts inconspicuous. Pedicel 1–2 cm long, straight, pendulous at flowering, upcurved at fruiting. Calyx broadly campanulate, deeply 5-lobed; lobes lanceolate, acuminate, 2–3 mm long, pilose on margin. Corolla campanulate, whitish yellow, reddish striate, 7–8 mm long, short puberulent on both surfaces, shallowly 5-lobed; lobes depressed orbiculate, c. 2 × 3 mm. Stamens 10; filaments short villous; anthers with 2 awns on upper dorsal side. Capsule ellipsoid or oblong, erect, 5–7 × 3 mm, 5-ridged. Seeds oblong, c. 3 mm long, irregularly winged. Flowers mid May to late June. (Iwatsuki 1993).
Distribution Japan southern Hokkaido, Honshu (northward from Hyogo Prefecture), Shikoku (Tokushima Prefecture).
Habitat Open rocky mountain slopes; 700–1800 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 4-7
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Not evaluated (NE)
In 1927 E.H. Wilson wrote in Plant Hunting that Enkianthus is “a genus whose merits are far from being properly known to garden-lovers” (Wilson 1927). This was undoubtedly true when written and, in large part, still holds true today. However, in the decades since he wrote the horticultural world has fully embraced Enkianthus campanulatus at least, taking full advantage of its many merits, and has developed a great appreciation and understanding of its various uses in the landscape. Of the species native to Japan, this endemic enjoys the widest natural distribution (Iwatsuki 1993). It is also, by far, the most widely cultivated species in the genus owing to its hardiness, generally good adaptability, free-flowering nature, and the fact that a significant (though not overwhelming) number of cultivars offers a range of subtle charms especially when considering flower colour, form and size.
This freely branching deciduous shrub generally attains a height of 2–5 m but one can encounter specimens over 7 m tall both in the wild and in cultivation. An enormous specimen at Polly Hill Arboretum (Massachusetts, USA) measured an astonishing 9.4 m tall by 12.2 m wide in 2010 at nearly 50 years old (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011); in the UK there is a record of a tree to 10 m × 22 cm dbh at Trewithen, Cornwall, as well as sizeable plants in colder climates, such as 8 m at Lydney Park, Gloucestershire, and 7 m at Sandling Park, Kent (Tree Register 2022). Plants begin to flower at a young age, producing masses of open-campanulate flowers in a range of colours from nearly pure white to a clear raspberry-red. However, owing to the intricate veining and shading as well as the frequently observed subtle blending and variability of colours, it is a challenge to typify a “normal” flower; they tend to be pale creamy-yellow to pinkish, sometimes suffused with pale salmony-orange with distinctive and richly coloured veining and darker shading basally or toward the tip of the corolla. James Veitch’s summary ‘ochreous-red’ is apt (Veitch 1906). Appearing as they do after the leaves have emerged, viewing a mature plant at a distance does not necessarily have tremendous visual impact but on closer inspection the intricate beauty of the individual flower becomes fully apparent. As the flowers senesce, the entire corolla is shed and the visual impact is not unlike a cherry tree as it sheds its petals. Walking through a carpet of fallen flowers beneath a large specimen as the corollas continue to rain down is an experience not readily forgotten! In general, established plants flower reliably and consistently from one year to the next but there does seem to be some variation in this characteristic based on the individual clone or due to some other site specific condition (pers. obs.). Autumn brings another delight for the eyes as the foliage of Red-vein Enkianthus reliably transitions through a splendid range of fall colours including shades of yellow, orange and red.
It was introduced to the west in 1880 by English botanist Charles Maries (1851–1902) for Messrs. Veitch (Edwards & Marshall 2019). Maries was another plant collector dispatched by this famous nursery firm to bring back the most recent discoveries from eastern Asia. In the many decades since its introduction, Red-vein Enkianthus has only grown in popularity and although not a common item in mainstream garden centers, one or more clones is typically available at most good nurseries. One only has to consider the widely dispersed gardens in which this plant is succesfully grown to gain an appreciation for its hardiness and adaptability. It can be found growing well throughout much of northern and western Europe in its typical form or as a cultivar. In North America it is broadly adaptable and is grown in much of the eastern third of the United States and southeastern and maritime Canadian provinces including in the vicinity of St. John, Newfoundland. There it has been succesfully cultivated in private gardens and at the Memorial University of Newfoundland Botanic Garden for many years as noted by that garden’s director Todd Boland (pers. comm.). Not all clones are equally hardy and gardeners in particularly cold environments should take an experimental approach in their efforts to cultivate this and other species of Enkianthus. On the West Coast of North America Red-vein Enkianthus is successfully grown from parts of British Columbia southward, primarily west of the Cascade Mountains, to northern California. In much of the interiors of North America and Europe, summer heat, dry conditions, and/or high soil pH preclude the successful cultivation of Enkianthus (and most members of the heath family) but E. campanulatus is cultivated at both the Betty Ford Alpine Garden (Vail, Colorado) and Denver Botanic Garden, (Colorado) in the US.
This cultivar produces mid-pink flowers, suggesting its name which translates to “dawn” or “daybreak”. It is one of several Japanese cultivars imported into North America during the early 2000’s by Heritage Seedlings, Inc. (Oregon, USA) (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011).
Synonyms / alternative names
Enkianthus campanulatus 'Weston Red'
This is one of the darkest red-flowered cultivars. It is a recent selection from Weston Nurseries (Massachusetts, USA) named for a visionary Washington state nurseryman. It has been listed informally as Weston red or Weston red seedling. (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011). This clone is cultivated in several gardens in eastern North America.
The flowers of this clone are rimmed in deep red and twice as large as the typical species. It arose as a chance seedling at Slieve Donard Nursery, Northern Ireland, before 1940 (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011).
Enkianthus pallidiflorus Craib
This name applies to white-flowered forms of Red-vein Enkianthus.
As it occurs in nature, this white-flowered form varies from near pure white to creamy or yellowish white and occasionally greenish-white. There is a trend of moving away from the taxonomic use of forma at infraspecific rank; as this trend becomes more widely adopted, it may make sense for horticultural taxonomy to follow suit with forms such as this one (f. albiflorus) being reclassified to cultivar status (‘Albiflorus’) or, preferably, given the inherent variability, establishing a catch-all group (Albiflorus Group) for white-flowered plants that are not specific named clones.
Creamy white flowers rimmed with contrasting pink-edged lobes distinguish this 2006 introduction from Rare Find Nursery (New Jersey, USA). This promising seedling was named by the late nursery founder, Hank Schannen, for Mr. Faser, who distinguished it from a patch of volunteer seedlings (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011).
‘Hiraethlyn’ is a creamy-white flowered selection with red veins that originated at Bodnant Garden in Wales, UK in 1961 (Thomas 1992).
Synonyms / alternative names
Enkianthus campanulatus 'Hollandia Red'
Based on plants labelled as ‘Hollandia’ this clone was listed and described by Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke (2011) as having pale, creamy pink flowers with heavy rose-pink venation. Michael Dirr, however, describes this as bearing large red flowers (Dirr 2009). This latter description seems more apt as it is frequently listed as ‘Hollandia Red’. This clone is only infrequently encountered in nurseries and gardens but is in cultivation in both Europe and North America.
This clone produces dense clusters of round, cream-coloured flowers etched with rose-pink veining. It is one of two clones introduced in 1990 originating from a 1980s breeding program at Iseli Nursery (Oregon, USA). Both were named for the wife of the nursery’s founder (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011).
One of two cultivars introduced in 1990 as a result of a 1980’s breeding program at Iseli Nursery (Oregon, USA). This selection has rose-red flowers that are darker and with even darker venation than ‘Showy Lantern’. They were both named for the wife of the nursery’s founder (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011).
Synonyms / alternative names
Enkianthus campanulatus PRETTYCOAT™
A compact shrubby selection with dark red stems and pale creamy flowers with pale pink corolla lobes; raised in the Netherlands in the late 2010s (Hatch 2021–2022).
A distinct selection from Rare Find Nursery (New Jersey, USA) (Far Reaches Farm 2022) with creamy white bells elegantly tipped in rich cerise.
One of several Japanese cultivars introduced to the United States by Heritage Seedlings, Inc. (Oregon) in the early 2000’s. The name, crudely translated, means “rosy mountain”, an appropriate name for this large-flowered, rosy-red selection (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011).
A splendid clone introduced in the late 1970s by Bill Flemer III of Princeton Nurseries (New Jersey, USA) offering large, solid red flowers, amongst the darkest of any in the genus. (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011). It probably represents var. palibinii (R. White pers. comm. 2023).
Selected in about 1980 at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, this boasts a profusion of flowers that are cream-coloured at the base, veined with pink and shading to deep pink on the lobes (Armitage, Edwards & Lancaster 2014).
The rosy-red flowers of ‘Red Velvet’ are similar to those of ‘Miyama-beni’ and ‘Showy Lantern’, more a dark pink than a true red, and this clone is described as having consistently good red autumn foliage (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011). The corolla lobing helps to distinguish it from similar cultivars such as ‘Princeton Red Bells’.
‘Renoir’ bears white flowers with lobes delicately suffused with pale pink, but they lack distinctly coloured veins. The intensity of the pink coloration varies somewhat from year to year, presumably related to weather in some way. When cooler weather prevails leading up to and during its flowering period the pink coloration tends to be more prominent, but even then it is subtle (pers. obs.). It originated at the Arnold Arboretum (Massachusetts, USA) where it had been grown from seed received in 1923 from RBG Edinburgh, UK. It was named by assistant propagator Rob Nicholson in the early 1980s. The original plant no longer grows at the Arnold Arboretum, having been deaccessioned in 1999 (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011). It is infrequently available from nurseries and is only sporadically encountered in gardens.
This is an upright, densely branched selection with slender, campanulate rosy-pink flowers and darker veining and scarlet autumn foliage. Observations made at the University of Maine at Orono suggest that it is less cold hardy than the species. It was named and introduced in the 1980s by the late Ed Mezitt of Weston Nurseries (Massachusetts, USA) (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011).
Selected from a chance seedling, this cultivar is noted for its larger leaves, strong upright growth, and creamy white flowers marked with a rich rose-red band on the apical third of the corolla and distinct veining. The new stems emerge an attractive reddish colour. It was selected by Mike Johnson of Summer Hill Nursery (Connecticut, USA) (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011).
This cultivar has medium green leaves that are irregularly edged in chartreuse-green; the edge colour later fades to ivory-white. The pale margin remains when the green part turns scarlet in autumn. It was selected in Japan by Barry Yinger, but named and released by Wayside Gardens in the United States in 1995 (Houtman 2004). ‘Tokyo Masquerade’ tends to be less vigorous compared with other clones; as a result, the mature height will likely be considerably less, perhaps only 2–3 m.
Enkianthus campanulatus subsp. longilobus (Nakai) Kitam.
Enkianthus longilobus (Nakai) Ohwi
Meisteria longiloba Nakai
Tritomodon longilobus (Miq.) G.Nicholson
Differing from the type (var. campanulatus) in: corolla larger, 8–9 mm long; lobes widely ovate, obtuse, c. 3 mm long and wide, reddish throughout (Iwatsuki 1993).
RHS Hardiness Rating: H5
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-7
The natural distribution of this variety is restricted to the central parts of Kyushu but at relatively high elevations. It was listed as rare in the 1997 IUCN Red List. Many red-flowered cultivars of E. campanulatus could likely be assigned to this variety or var. palibinii, both of which have consistently red flowers but differing, in part, in the latter having smaller flowers. If this is the case, calling them clones of E. campanulatus is not incorrect but closer scrutiny may allow their identity to be more accurately defined.
Enkianthus palibinii Craib
Enkianthus rubicundus Matsum. & Nakai
Meisteria rubicunda (Matsum. & Nakai) Nakai
Tritomodon rubicundus (Matsum. & Nakai) Honda
Differing from the type (var. campanulatus) in: corolla smaller, 5–6 mm long, dark red throughout, lobes orbicular, 1.5–2 × 2.5–3 mm (Iwatsuki 1993); a conspicuous line of reddish downy hair borders the base of the midrib of the leaf undersides (Bean 1981).
RHS Hardiness Rating: H5
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-7
Flowers of this variety are rich red throughout, though smaller than in typical var. campanulatus and borne in a distinct raceme (Bean 1981). Many red-flowered cultivars of E. campanulatus could likely be assigned to this variety or var. longilobus, both of which have consistently red flowers but differing, in part, in the latter having larger flowers. If this is the case, calling them clones of E. campanulatus is not incorrect but closer scrutiny may allow their identity to be more accurately defined.
In addition to ‘Tokyo Masquerade’ a number of other clones of Enkianthus campanulatus with variegated (white-speckled) or golden leaves have been selected (Hirose & Yokoi 1998, Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011)., though they seem to have had short existences and have never become widely distributed.
The illegitimately named ‘Variegatus’ was offered by Heronswood Nursery in 2004, with an amusing tale attached. Dan Hinkley had seen the plant in a Japanese nursery (name now forgotten, pers. comm. 2023), purchased one and established it at Heronswood. He invited the notable plantsman and inveterate propagator J.C. Raulston to take a cutting and was ‘dumbstruck to watch my friend cut my child in half with his pruners! However, it is because of J.C. that we now have this available, as his cuttings lived and the parent did not’ (Heronswood Nursery 2004). It is possible that material of this clone may persist in the western United States and Japan.
This cultivar bears creamy white flowers and is a dwarf, compact selection with deep scarlet autumn foliage. It is not a vigorous grower at Arboretum Wespelaar, Belgium (Clark, Hsu & Camelbeke 2011). This plant has featured on the benches of Alpine Garden Society shows.