Kolkwitzia amabilis

This tall and lovely deciduous shrub needs quite a bit of space, perhaps in the centre of an island bed; it forms a thicket up to 12 feet (3.6 m) high, and nearly as much in width. It is one of the glorious shrubs from west China introduced early in this century by E.H. Wilson, known as ‘Chinese Wilson’, the indomitable botanist-collector-explorer who visited China four times and is said to have introduced more than 1.200 species of trees and shrubs to the West. Gardeners in the United States, who have grown Kolkwitzia amabilis ever since its discovery, call it the ‘beauty bush’.

Though the main stems of the shrub are upright, they arch over in early summer from the weight of the blossom – large clusters of small, pink, bell-shaped flowers with yellow throats, best in the variety ‘Rosea’. In autumn the pointed oval leaves turn a rich scarlet, making a fine second burst of colour.

A native of rocky places and high mountains, Kolkwitzia is very hardy and reliable; it needs full sun, and will grow in any soil, being especially vigorous on chalk. After flowering, prune it in the same way as Deutzia. Put it with naturalized plants round about (nothing too formal) such as hellebores, Japanese anemones and campanulas.

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