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#BotanistLens: Wine in a bottle or a blossom?

Calycanthaceae blossoms are stunningly pretty, some are modern hybrid marvels and they all smell like a Riesling in a bottle!

One whiff and it will leave you feeling effervescent! Calycanthus flowers usually have a fruity fragrance with hints of pineapple, mango, peach, strawberry all grouped together. They smell like fermenting fruits in one blossom alone. Fragrant for humans but no so much for deer. Yes! to the deer the Calycanthus fragrance is the one to avoid, for it has a toxic alkaloid 'Calycanthine' which can cause damage to their central nervous system. Now which garden enthusiast wouldn't mind a deer repelling plant?

Fermenting fruity flavor of one of these Calycanthus is so strong in one particular plant, that the hybrid itself is named 'Hartlage wine'. Deep burgundy red, the flowers have resemblance to the Magnolias and it is a botanical marvel. Calycanthus raulstonii 'Hartlage wine' is a recent intergeneric cross between Calycanthus floridus and Sinocalycanthus chinensis. It surely got the best traits from both parents! Burgundy color of the floridus and wide open flower form of C. chinensis.

Now let's talk about one of its unique and special parent, Sinocalycanthus chinensis (also known as Calycanthus chinensis). "the species is rare in the wild and needs our help to survive" Calycanthus chinensis: The Chinese Sweetshrub (

London Town gardens showcase the precious 'Hartlage wine' the stellar baby of the Sniocalycanthus and C. floridus. The gardens also showcases both parents C. floridus and the 'rare' parent Sinocalycanthus. "One of the oldest known flowering plants with fossil records dating back to 144 million years. “Chinese Wax Shrub” is related to “Carolina Allspice” (C. floridus) of the eastern U.S. This very rare species, native to Zheijang Province of Southeast Asia, makes a lovely rounded upright shrub 6’-8’ tall with extremely pretty flowers."

Most precocious of all, London Town also is a host for a second hybrid marvel Calycanthus 'VENUS'. It is a cross between three different plants! "'Venus' which is a complex hybrid derived from a controlled pollination using the following three species: Carolina allspice, California sweetshrub and Chinese wax shrub.

Last but not the least, another stunningly fragrant member of the Calycanthacease family, is the winter sweet/Japanese allspice, Chimonanthus praecox. Cute yellow flowers with aroma that can fill up an entire garden.

From the Carolina allspice, California sweetshrub, 'Hartlage wine', 'Venus' to 'Wintersweet', London Town gardens is an oasis for almost all Calycanthaceae members.

Now that's a lot of fruity fermented fragrance or a lot of rieslings in one garden! Either way you see it, the Living collections of London Town are certainly amplified with the fragrance and variety of these rare and modern hybrid marvels.

Dedicated volunteers helping restore the 'Momi Fir Path' which now hosts, Calycanthus 'Hartlage Wine', Caylcanthus 'Venus' and Carolina allspice.

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