Sunday, January 18, 2009
Peppermint Mountain Laurel
Kalmia latifolia 'Peppermint'
Synonyms: Ivybush, Calico Bush, Spoonwood, Sheep Laurel, Lambkill, Clamoun
Today’s flower is one of the best native flowering shrubs that grows in this area. The species has a white flower and often forms thickets in areas where it is happy. ‘Peppermint’ is a cultivar and like most of the garden origin varieties it grows smaller than the wild plants.
Mountain Laurel is the state flower of both Connecticut and Pennsylvania. It generally blooms in late May and June with flowers that can last two to three weeks if the conditions are good. That is nice since it kind of extends the Rhododendron and Azalea seasons, both of which it is related to. The wood is strong and grows in underground burls which are valuable for furniture and tobacco pipes. Mountain Laurel seems to grow in sun or shade here and likes moisture. I have found that it does not do well in foundation plantings or too much shade. It is very difficult to transplant native plants but we have done it before.
When I first started gardening there were virtually no cultivars available and now there are many ranging from striped, banded and almost completely red ones. Most of the cultivar development has been done by Connecticut plantsman Richard Jaynes. His book, Kalmia: Mountain Laurel and Related Species, is one of my favorite plant books and is a must for anyone wanting to know more about Mountain Laurel. Mr. Jaynes now runs Broken Arrow Nurseries in Hamden, Connecticut. It is a nice nursery with a lot of rare and unusual treasures. Mr. Jaynes is usually there and will talk plants with you. The nursery is doing some mail order now but in the past I have always picked up things.
Here is a link to a page with a lot of cultivars:
Mountain Laurel Cultivars
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