Hillier beats the weather to unveil star plant on Chelsea opening day

The rare Sinocalycalycanthus raulstonii 'Hartlage Wine' will make its debut at Chelsea Flower Show today -- 24 May -- as the star attraction on the Hillier stand in the great pavilion.

Hillier Nurseries managing director Andy McIndoe said he was delighted to be able to share such a rare plant with the gardening public.

He said:  "It looks amazing, we've never had it at the show before because its not available really — it's very much a specialist nursery plant because the guy who raised them [JC Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina Head Gardener Richard Hartlage] only gave it to friends, so that's how we got it, through Robert Hillier.  It's the sort of thing we dream of showing at Chelsea and I know its going to be the one thing everybody asks us about."

The rare shrub has glossy green foliage and flowers through to September. Flowers are a rich red wine colour with a cluster of cream petals around a deep burgundy centre. They flower from May to September, with the buds turning butter-yellow before falling. It is a cross between sinocalycanthus chinensis and calycanthus floridus.

McIndoe described the flowers as more like ‘Florida' in the bud form, opening into lotus like blooms. ‘Hartlage Wine' will feature in the Venice inspired section of the Hillier ‘Adventures in Gardening' stand which also includes Moroccan-, Himalayan-, water- and woodland-inspired gardens.

Hillier will have 500 plants for sale next spring, all of which will be available exclusively through Hillier Garden Centres and the Hillier Online Shop www.hillier.co.uk.

The plant grows to 3x2m and responds well to pruning to maintain the desired size. It will thrive in any good, moist, but well-drained soil in full sun to light, dappled shade but requires protection in winter from very cold winter winds and will retail at around £16.99 for a 3-litre pot.

The company's major plant launch will be Digitalis 'Serendipity,' unveiled at Four Oaks last year. McIndoe added:  "'Serendipity' has made it and is looking great, but our other planned launch — Philadelphus maculatus 'Sweet Clare' — is dragging her heels."


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