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This species is scarcely known in cultivation except by the double-flowered form, to which the following description refers: A shrub 4 to 6 ft high, the branches gracefully arching and forming a dense bush as much in diameter as it is high; young shoots downy. Leaves ovate, 1 to 13⁄4 in. long, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. wide, downy beneath (especially when young), finely and evenly toothed, stalk 1⁄8 in. or less long. Flowers produced during late April and May in fascicles three to six together, each flower on a glabrous, slender stalk, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long; petals pure white and so numerous as to form a flower like a small ‘bachelor’s button’, 1⁄2 in. across.
Native of China, and much cultivated there; it was found by Wilson in its double-flowered state in W. Hupeh. This form was originally introduced from Japan by Siebold about 1845. In the Gardeners’ Chronicle for 20th February 1847, an advertisement sets forth that ‘the stock of this magnificent novelty bought at Dr Siebold’s sale, is now in the possession of Louis van Houtte, florist at Ghent,’ and plants to be delivered the following April are offered at one guinea each. It is still one of the most beautiful of hardy shrubs, producing during the summer slender shoots, 1 to 2 ft long which, the following May, are wreathed from end to end with blossom. For the needs of most gardens it can be increased sufficiently quickly by taking off the side suckers from old plants and potting them, then placing them in a mild bottom heat; but if such conveniences are not available they can be planted in the open ground – a slower, less certain process.
The single-flowered plant is in cultivation, and is distinguished as S. prunifolia f. simpliciflora Nakai. In my experience it is an absolutely worthless shrub because of its extraordinary sterility. A plant was obtained from the Continent for Kew in 1887, but although I have known this and others raised from it for twenty years, I have never yet seen it in flower. But this, of course, is more likely to be an individual than a racial characteristic, seeing the floriferousness of the double-flowered form.