Enkianthus campanulatas ‘Red Bells’ Rings with Rosy, Late Spring Blossoms & Glorious Beauty Beyond Bloom . . .

June 7th, 2013 § 2 comments

Enkianthus_ campanulatas_Red_Bells_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com Enkianthus campanulatas ‘Red Bells’ with Baptisia australis, blooming in the background

June is a fantastic month for flowers. Everywhere you look —from sunny meadows to shady nooks— something seems to be blooming. At this time of year, many gardeners spend their weekend hours strolling through nursery rows, choosing blooming plants based upon their flower color. This is a tried and true method for selecting optimal bloom-time combinations, however, because most gardeners shop exclusively in spring and early summer, many gardens look great in June, but then fizzle out by early July. I like to encourage my clients to look beyond the beauty of May-June flowers; planning monthly, inspirational visits to nurseries and botanical gardens, straight through October. Keep in mind that as beautiful as they are in bloom, the majority of trees and shrubs in a well-designed garden should offer more than a brief, 1-2 week flowering period. When I plan gardens for my clients, I look for trees, shrubs and perennial plants with beauty-beyond-bloom; offering form, foliage (especially those with dramatic fall foliage), and structure, as well as gorgeous flowers.

Enkianthus_campanulatus_'Red_Bells'_with_Baptisia_australis_in_June_Rain_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com I love the way Red Bells Enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Red Bells’) catch raindrops and blend beautifully with the blue and violet springtime hues in gardens

Take Red Bells Enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatas ‘Red Bells’), for example. Native to Japan, the beautiful, red-pink blossoms of this lovely shrub —opening in late May here in Vermont—  attract pollinators —such as hummingbirds, butterflies and bees— and the tiny bell shaped flowers last well into the middle of June. Even after the flowers fade, Red Bells Enkianthus’ shiny, green leaves and its pleasing form offer a verdant backdrop for flowering perennials and foliage plants throughout the growing year. But the real bonus comes in autumn, when the leaves turn brilliant color; with hues ranging from red-orange to sizzling scarlet. Frosted with ice and fresh snow, the delicate twigs even look lovely in early winter.

Enkianthus_campanulatas-Red-Bells-leaf-ⓒ-michaela-medina-thegardenerseden1 Late October Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Red Bells’ foliage in my Vermont garden

Hardy in USDA zones 4a-7b, Red Bells Enkianthus is a medium-sized garden shrub; with a mature size of 6-8′ high and 4-6′ wide. This ericaceous plant prefers moist, woodsy, acidic soil and partially shady to mostly sunny locations. Great in combination with spring-flowering perennials and bulbs —particularly in blue-violet and clear yellow colors— I also like to position Red Bells Enkianthus near indigo, purple and blue fall bloomers and shrubs or perennial plants with maroon, burgundy or gold hued fall foliage. Used as a knock-out, solitary specimen or clustered in a group for an informal hedge, Enkianthus’ three-season beauty can bring bold color to a shady garden and lend a cooling hand to a sunny spot. It’s a great choice for extending beauty-beyond-bloom in your garden design.

Garden Design: Michaela Medina Harlow

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§ 2 Responses to Enkianthus campanulatas ‘Red Bells’ Rings with Rosy, Late Spring Blossoms & Glorious Beauty Beyond Bloom . . ."

  • Laurrie says:

    A beautiful plant that I would love to try. I haven’t planted it, thinking it needs shade (I have very little), but you say it does well in mostly sun. I may have to get enkianthus now! It really is a beauty.

  • Michaela says:

    Hi Laurrie,
    Enkianthus does prefer partial shade, however it will grow in mostly sunny locations with protection from mid-day sun. The most important —key in fact— requirement for Enkianthus is soil acidity and moisture. Soil pH must be below 6.5 (lower is better, as with blueberries), in order for this plant to thrive. I have successfully planted Enkianthus in mostly sunny spots with moist, acidic soil —including a mostly sunny spot in my own garden— with success. Like Vaccinium, Kalmia and Rhododendron, Enkianthus will fail to thrive in neutral to alkaline or alkaline soil. If blueberries grow well on your site, Enkianthus should also work. I would not site Enkianthus where it has no protection from hot, mid-day sun. Morning sun would be fine, or even northwestern exposure, late afternoon sun. Mostly sunny or bright light is fine, but if your site has non-stop, glaring sun, this shrub will probably not work well. Again, Enkianthus does prefer some shade, but not full shade. The most critical issues are soil acidity and moisture.
    Hope this helps!

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