Pic of the Day – Calycanthus ‘Aphrodite’

The large flowers are delightfully fragrant.

The large flowers of ‘Aphrodite’ are delightfully fragrant.

In the mid-1990’s, J.C. Raulston wowed the plant world when he crossed the southeastern sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) with its rare Chinese relative (C. chinensis or as it was known then Sinocalycanthus chinensis).  The hybrid known as ‘Hartlage Wine’, named for Richard Hartlage the student who did the actual hybridizing, was beautiful but lacked the fragrance that makes our native sweetshrub so popular.  Now Tom Ranney, the NC State University’s mad scientist of a plant breeder and the outstanding team he has assembled at the Mountain Horticulture Crops Research Center in the mountains of NC, has created a hybrid using the original parents plus the western US species (C. occidentalis) that combines the best features of ‘Hartlage Wine’ – huge burgundy flowers, large glossy foliage, vigorous growth, and extended and heavy flower power – with the fruity fragrance of sweetshrub.  His selection, ‘Aphrodite’, will make a large shrub perfect for the back of a border or a deciduous hedge in full sun to part shade and is tolerant of permanently damp soils.  Once established it is easy to care for and requires little maintenance.  It can be pruned in winter to control the height.

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