Years ago, when I became engaged, my best man Jan Mihalek asked me what kind of bachelor party I wanted. In lieu of the traditional night of debauchery, he offered a week in
Enkianthus’s botanical name is also widely accepted as a common name. A deciduous ornamental, Enkianthus is an upright shrub which reaches heights of 6-15 feet. Planting distances from one another should be 4-6 feet apart. A refined, elegant plant, Enkianthus is a gorgeous woodland plant which lends itself well as a single specimen, is useful in small groupings and mixes well with other ericaceous plants. You could train it as a small tree if you were so inclined and appreciate its seasonal attributes, of which there are plenty. Similar conditions that rhododendron and azaleas enjoy, so too will your Enkianthus. Cool, moist soils which are acidic make this plant feel right at home. The flowers are what most rave about, however. Small, bell-shaped, creamy-yellow flowers with red veins are something to marvel at in May and June. These flowers are held in pendulous clusters and while they seem dainty, this is one durable plant. There are few pests associated with Enkianthus, although scale and spider mites have been reported in hot locations. The fall color can be random, but yellows, oranges and reds are something to look for. Often when I see Enkianthus with fall color I am reminded of Parrotia persica’s (Persian Parrotia or Ironwood) fall color. Always inconsistent, but something to seek out, no two plants have the same fall markings.
The fact that most Enkianthus are seed-grown, thus contributing to inconsistencies with fall color and flowers has led to selected clones, or cultivars, and their apparent stability. ‘Red Bells’ is probably the most common cultivar found in independent garden centers. With consistent flower color, ‘Red Bells’ has its flower tips dipped in red and the fall color is a reliable red. Overall heights for this cultivar are far smaller than the species, thus making it ideal for smaller landscapes. ‘Renoir’, named by Rob Nicholson formerly of the Arnold Arboretum, has exciting creamy-yellow flowers with purplish veins in May. Bright oranges, yellows and reds are more consistent throughout than the species. ‘Jan Iseli Pink’ has “colossal clusters of pink, cup-shaped flowers that droop from slender branches” (Iseli Nursery). A kaleidoscope of colors, shades from yellow to red, is always seen in the fall. “Jean Iseli Red’, as you would imagine, has red flowers and a remarkable deep red fall color. Finally, ‘Sikokianus’ is widely considered to be the darkest flowered Enkianthus. Maroon flower buds open to brick-red flowers. Difficult to procure, but worth the effort, this and any of the above cultivars will offer color and versatility to your garden.
Georg Carstensen, the founder of