Tag Archives: Luculia pinceana Fragrant Cloud

Blooms to sweeten a winter’s day – luculia

Luculia gratissima ‘Early Dawn’

Here we are, a mere three days from the winter solstice and outside my window, rain is pelting down while thunder and lightning is keeping the dogs safely in their beds by the fire. So I bring you winter sunshine, in the form of luculia, with photographs I took just yesterday when the sun shone and the daytime temperature was around 18 degrees Celsius.

I am very fond of luculia with their heady fragrance and their balls of flowers. Perhaps they are a bit like the wintersweet equivalent for mild climates. These are not particularly hardy plants even though their original homeland is declared as the Himalayas and Southern China. Think not of high, snowy peaks but more of temperate, protected, lowland forests and by the time you reach southern China, it is distinctly tropical. Luculia are okay with cooler temperatures and a degree or two of frost but that is all. The will not survive much beyond that.

There is not a huge range of luculia – there are only five different known species and, as far as I know, named cultivars are species selections, not hybrids. We grow gratissima and pinceana, grandiflora is also widely grown but I have not seen intermedia or yunnanensis except on line.

I am not a massive fan of L. gratissima ‘Early Dawn’, which is a smaller growing species. That sugar pink flower is very… sugary. Also, when grown in full sun or high light levels, the foliage can take on autumn tones which are not a great foil to sugar pink. Too often, ‘Early Dawn’ is clipped into obedient, rounded stature. Let it grow as it wishes in woodland conditions and the foliage stays bright green giving clean contrast to the pink, while the shrub becomes willowy and graceful. That is when it looks best, to my eye, although it won’t flower as prolifically in shadier conditions.

Luculia pinceana ‘Fragrant Cloud’

‘Fragrant Cloud’ is a different species, being L. pinceana. It is larger growing with considerably larger flowers in pretty almond pink, a stronger fragrance, more rangy and open in its growth and if you prune it too hard, it is highly likely to die on you. If you like tidy, contained shrubs, this may not be one for you. ‘Fragrant Pearl’ is one we named, another L. pinceana selection that came to us as a seedling from our colleague, Glyn Church. It is much more forgiving than its pink sibling and will take harder pruning. Left to its own devices, it will be just as rangy.

Luculia pinceana ‘Fragrant Pearl’

We used to grow ‘Fragrant Pearl’ commercially and it was one of the quickest turnarounds we had. Most of the trees and shrubs we grew took 3 or even 4 years from taking the cutting before becoming saleable. We could get ‘Fragrant Pearl’ through in 15 months. We would take the cuttings from nursery plants as soon as the new growth had hardened in January. They rooted really quickly and with a high percentage in the propagation beds. We would pot them from root-trainers to finished bag size in late winter or early spring, stake and shape them in January and sell them in bud in March and April. ‘Fragrant Cloud’, the pink form of the same species, was nowhere near as easy to handle as a nursery plant and the reason we don’t have L. grandiflora is because it was not that easy to propagate from the cuttings Mark tried and we don’t want it enough to go out and actually buy a plant.

I can not advise on how to make the flowers last longer when cut. Sometimes they have held reasonably well, other times they have gone limp and flaccid within hours. This probably has more to do with the time of the day they were cut than whether the stems were crushed or sealed by burning. But we heat our house to such a degree in winter that there is no point in trying to keep cut flowers in a vase.

Left to right: gratisima ‘Early Dawn’, pinceana ‘Fragrant Pearl’, pinceana ‘Fragrant Cloud

Tikorangi Notes: Monday 6 June, 2011

Latest Posts:
1) What does your lawn say about you? (Subtitled: a plea for sustainability in lawn management). Abbie’s column.

2) Plants that Delight – a reprint of an article featuring my seven favourite plants in the latest Weekend Gardener – although a cynic might suggest that this is in part the seven plants for which I had good photos. When Mark is asked what is his favourite plant/magnolia/michelia/camellia/rhododendron, he is inclined to reply: “Whichever is in flower this week.”

3) Tikorangi Diary No. 2. What we have been doing in the garden last week, including praise for our big walnut, Freshford Gem, and a lament for what has happened to the garden pages in our local paper. My ruggedly independent advice for garden tasks for the week has been replaced by garden tasks as recommended by a local garden centre: you need three different fertilisers when planting your roses. I have not heard of chitting garlic prior to planting before and you are meant to get out and spray all your deciduous plants with copper now to hasten leaf drop. We blenched at the prospect in a garden our size. Besides, I rather thought deciduous plants dropped their leaves when they were ready to. My beloved Plant Collector has been replaced by a shopping reporter. My columns and Outdoor Classroom have been replaced by low grade stories about people who have gardens of some description but no particular skills and no interesting insights. Sigh. Serves me right for having an argument with the deputy editor.

Luculia pinceana Fragrant Cloud

Luculia pinceana Fragrant Cloud

Tikorangi Notes: Sunday 5 June, 2011

How lovely is the luculia? Well relatively lovely if it is the garish little, candy pink Luculia gratissima Early Dawn and particularly lovely if it is the wonderful Luculia pinceana Early Dawn or Fragrant Pearl.  These somewhat tender Asian shrubs are a feature of our early winter garden.

Alas Mark found the first instance of camellia petal blight today – in a japonica. It seems to appear earlier every year. We have never seen it in sasanquas and I was a little surprised this week to hear of claims that in warmer climates, sasanqua camellias are susceptible. We would really like to hear confirmation from anybody who has actually seen it in sasanquas (as opposed to having heard reports of it). We had thought that these Japanese camellias were resistant. Blight has certainly never shown in ours and we are reasonably eagle-eyed on the matter.