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…).
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.
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.
Photos: carolynsshadegardens.com, plantmar.pl