Plantswoman FIONA EDMOND, who owns the award-winning Green Island Gardens in Ardleigh, shares her gardening tips. Today the topic is Kalmias.

Otherwise known as Mountain Laurels or Calico bush, Kalmias are medium sized evergreen shrubs which are rarely seen in nurseries or gardens today.

Perhaps the reason for this is that they are not the easiest of plants to satisfy, needing moist shady conditions and acidic soil that is light and well drained, preferably with added peat.

Originally from SE USA and Asia they can be found growing under taller trees. There are many cultivars combining all sorts of red pink and burgundy shades with white, all of them beautiful and fully hardy.

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The best display is often when half of the bloom cluster is yet to open.

The buds which are often different colours to the open flowers resemble iced gems, those tiny biscuits I remember from my childhood.

The flowers are carried in huge clusters, covering almost the entire shrub when fully open in June.

Kalmia latifolia is the most common variety and has deep pink buds opening to pale pink flowers.

K latifolia carousel, this is my favourite cultivar and never fails to draw great attention in the gardens here at Green Island.

The pale pink flower buds open to a profusion of white star burst flowers with cinnamon-purple circular bands.

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Kalmia latifolia Pink Charm, is a relatively strong grower and has strong pink buds opening to flowers of the same colour with slightly paler centres.

Kalmia angustifolia is a smaller growing variety known as sheep’s laurel.

Lower growing only to 60cm it spreads to 180cm forming a thicket.

It has slightly smaller flowers which are delicately marked with darker spots around the inside of the flowers.

Kalmia angustifolia Rubra

All the above varieties can be seen growing at Green island Gardens, Ardleigh.

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