Sweet Carolina Allspice

I must admit that I have never truly been a fan of Neil Diamond. It’s not that I mind him, but if satellite radio had a Neil Diamond station, I don’t know if I would stop on that channel. Now that I have said this, I hope that this does not put me at risk for being excommunicated from New England. See, as goes the Boston Red Sox, so goes New England (or most of it at least… there are some Yankees fans living in exile). And Red Sox fans love singing Sweet Caroline (bahm, bahm, bahm…).

Calycanthus 'Hartlage Wine'

Now I love the name Caroline because that is the middle name of one of our twins, Mia. We named her Mia after Mia Hamm and Caroline after my home state of North Carolina. To fully weave this story into a circle, I want to talk about Carolina allspice or Calycanthus floridus. Actually, I am going to dig a bit deeper and talk about Calycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine.’ Hartlage Wine allspice or Raulston allspice is a hybrid between Calycanthus floridus and Calycanthus sinensis. The hybrid was the brainstorm of one of my late professors at NC State, Dr. J.C. Raulston. The actual cross was carried out by a then student of J.C.’s, Richard Hartlage.

Calycanthus close up

The resulting plant is a big, dense grower with dark green foliage and large, dark red flowers up to 4″ in diameter. In our gardens at CMBG, Hartlage Wine grows heads and shoulders above the rest. Hartlage Wine does not have the fragrance of some Carolina allspice but the beauty of this plant almost makes up for that. We have ours planted along the entrance walk, in smelling distance from Calycanthus floridus ‘Michael Lindsey.’ Michael Lindsey is quite fragrant so you can look at Hartlage Wine while smelling the sweet aroma of Michael Lindsey.

The Raulston allspice is a deciduous shrub growing to about 7-8′ in height and width at maturity. It can be pruned to keep in bounds. It is hardy to USDA zone 5 and is tolerant of most soils.

This year, we added ‘Venus’ and ‘Aphrodite’ allspice to see how they perform compared to the others. I am somewhat impartial to Hartlage Wine because of the history of the plant and the memory of planting one over 10 years ago in my sweet home state of North Carolina. The fact that the plant is still doing well today tells me that it is a top performer for the garden.

Rodney

Photos: carolynsshadegardens.com, plantmar.pl

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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1 Comment

  1. [email protected] on July 23, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Looks like we have two things in common – Carolina allspice is my favorite plant of all time, and I originally wanted to name my daughter Mia after Mia Hamm (although I lost out to my husband, who wanted “Maya.”) Wish more people grew – and sold – Carolina allspice here in western NY. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for ‘Hartlage Wine’.

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