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Calycanthus Hartlage Wine – Hybrid sweetshrub

Calycanthus Hartlage Wine is a cross between the native eastern sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) and Chinese sweetshrub (Calycanthus chinensis). It has very large wine-red flowers.

Calycanthus Hartlage Wine was developed at North Carolina State University.

A fast grower in the garden, in my experience Hartlage Wine has not been notable for fragrance. The fragrance with sweetshrubs in the garden is highly variable between individual plants. The most fragrant sweetshrubs I have encountered have consistently been in their native habitat. I suspect fragrance also has much to do with environmental conditions when the plant is in bloom. Perhaps humidity, temperature, and time of day all affect how much fragrance is there for us to experience.

My best advice for those who value the immaculate and peerless scent of sweetshrub is to search for and buy plants when they are in bloom. This will give you the opportunity to sample individual plants for the quality of the scent.

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Calycanthus Hartlage Wine
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Hartlage wine is impressive in flower.

The flowers of Calycanthus Hartlage Wine are simply huge. Fully 3″ across when mature, one would expect the scent to come exploding outward. As mentioned, fragrance has been disappointing with our sample group. Bloom time is early-mid Spring.

Common names for Calycanthus include sweetshrub, Carolina allspice, and strawberry bush.

Hardiness is to USDA zone 6 and warmer. Sweetshrub is easy to grow. Partial shade to full sun is fine. Tolerates a variety of soil conditions, although rich and moist is preferred. Growth habit is suckering. I have run across fairly large groupings of Calycanthus floridus in the forest. Leaves remind me somewhat of flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). Sweetshrubs are related to magnolias by the way.

We have tested Hartlage Wine in full sun to fairly substantial shade. It has proven very easy to grow, although flowering is moderately heavier in sunnier garden exposures.

Would I recommend Hartlage Wine?

While the flowers are impressive and the hybridization impressive, I personally would stick with Calycanthus floridus (Carolina allspice), the native sweetshrub of the Southeastern United States. Hartlage Wine is undeniably beautiful, but the oversized nature of both the flowers and leaves seem to me at least to lose the understated charm of the native species. Rather than larger flowers, I’d love to see selections of the native species offered for sale that have consistent and reliable fragrance.

To my eyes, a better alternative candidate to the species is the superb Calycanthus ‘Athens’ discovered by UGA professor Michael Dirr.

Learn more about hybridizing efforts at North Carolina State University.

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Calycanthus Hartlage Wine – 2 year old plant

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