Monday, May 21, 2012

The bells, the bells

Well, lanterns actually.  Although at the moment they are more like red-pink droplets hanging in clusters from twiggy branches. The Chilean lantern tree, Crinodendron hookerianum, is building up to its yearly show in the front garden.

Crinodendron hookerianum - unopened buds

Even before I moved to my current garden I'd admired this small tree.  When I moved here it wasn't easily available locally but I knew of a specimen in a local garden.  Shortly after it finished flowering - late June - I begged some semi-ripe cuttings from the owner and installed them in cutting compost covered with a plastic bag and left them to root in a cold frame.  By summer's end I had two rooted cuttings from the four I'd taken.  One I gave away, one has now grown in my front garden for the last fifteen years.  And produced an annual early summer display for the past twelve.

Crinodendron hookerianum -bud close up

In the wild this Chilean species grows in moist, acid soil in shady sites or areas of high humidity.  Because of its position in my own garden it gets considerable sun and has to compete with a number of other evergreens for moisture.  As a consequence it has produced a more open growth habit than it would show in more favourable conditions and is more sparsely leaved than would normally be the case.  All the better for showing off the abundantly produced flowers.

They formed the previous autumn but only start expanding in late spring, colouring up nicely to the carmine pink shade of the mature flowers in the weeks before they open.  It's not a significant difference.  The petals open at the tip to admit pollinators inside  but its not a great expansion, the overall lantern shape remaining the same.

Last year it flowered twice - in May/June and again in September - a response to the poor summer.  The plant hasn't been disturbed.  This year's flowering has been unaffected.


  1. Crinodendron flowers are lovely and looks so exotic (which it is). Glad to see it doing well in your garden.

  2. That is so interesting. I've not seen one before.

    Cher Sunray Gardens

  3. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Cher: It wouldn't be hardy with you in Zone 6. Mine was damaged with -8C a couple of winters ago. I think you get a lot more than that - and for longer than I'd ever experience.