The calices are medium-sized shrubs with deciduous leaves, originating in China; in fact the common name refers to a plant belonging to the genus of calycanthacee, but whose species is called Chimonanthus. The species of chimonanthus existing in nature are few, and in particular only one, chimonanthus praecox, is cultivated in Italy. It produces a disordered shrub, with various erect stems, well branched, which give rise to a dense and intricate vegetation; the leaves appear in spring, after or during flowering, and are elongated, very similar to those of a peach or willow, lanceolate, of medium green color. The peculiar characteristic of the calicanto they are surely the flowers, that bloom in full winter, in February or March, independently from the climatic conditions, and well before that the plant has begun to produce the leaves; the result is a dry-looking shrub, completely covered with very fragrant flowers. The flowers bloom from the old wood, without stalk; they have elongated petals, waxy, white or yellow.
Decorative shrub, very rustic and resistant, which survives without problems in the winters of northern Italy, without fear of frost and snow; produces yellow or white, very fragrant flowers. In late spring it fills with leaves, although without the flowers it becomes a fairly anonymous shrub, without any decorative details; the upright posture and the intertwined branches make it suitable also for creating hedges, despite losing the foliage in the winter months. Plant of easy cultivation, once settled in the garden it tends to be content with the water of the bad weather and to not need particular care. Pruning is done in spring, after the flowers have withered.
The Chimonanthus nitens is a shrub with evergreen leaves, oval, or lanceolate, dark green, quite coriaceous; the stems are reddish, or red-brown, and the color of the foliage contrasts well with that of the bark; these shrubs originate from China, and can easily withstand the winter climate, but it is difficult to find them in Italian nurseries. The flowering takes place in spring, and consists of small white or light yellow flowers, bell-shaped, with linear, slightly waxy petals; the flowers of this calicanto do not smell or have a delicate fragrance. The shrub can reach a few meters in height, and with time it tends to empty itself into the lower part, thus requiring pruning, to maintain a compact and dense habit.
Grow the calicanto
The success of the chimonanthus praecox in the garden it is essentially due to the fact that, despite coming from places so far away, they survive without problems in the winter cold, and also in the summer heat; they are planted in a sunny place, or even partially shaded, in a fresh and very well drained, acid or alkaline soil, without this causing great inconvenience to the plant. As soon as they are planted, at least in the first year of development of the young plant, it is advisable to water the soil around the stem, whenever it is dry; in spring and autumn we spread at the foot of the shrub of a slow release granular fertilizer, rich in microelements. In the following years, once the plant has adapted well to life in our garden, we can water even sporadically, when periods of great heat occur, associated with drought. Pruning is not strictly necessary, it is carried out in the case of very developed plants, or with an excessively long habit. In general, these shrubs never empty in the lower part, as the roots continue to produce new basal suckers, which tend to keep the dense shrub along its entire length.
Pests and diseases
Aphids very often afflict the young shoots, which can be devastated by these insects; already in spring it is important to try to eradicate the colonies of aphids, so as to avoid that they reproduce rapidly, spreading throughout the garden. Excesses of watering, or life in a soil often soaked with water, can cause rot to the roots, which can lead to the sudden death of entire branches; in general, the suspension of watering solves the problem. Generally, however, the calices are left to themselves, and therefore hardly rains occur so intense as to maintain the soil always soaked. Occasionally it may happen that some branches are ruined by the summer heat, it is sufficient to remove them and water the foliage, in order to increase the environmental humidity, and to prevent the leaves from collapsing. These operations will have to be carried out in the early hours of the morning, to avoid that the water on the leaves, on days of strong heat and strong insolation, favors the development of burns.
In fact, in the calycanthacee family there is a plant called calycanthus: it is a shrub native to North America, with deciduous, oval, and dark green leaves; in summer this plant produces beautiful cupped flowers, bright red, consisting of numerous linear petals arranged in a spiral; these flowers have a very intense and characteristic aroma of ripe fruit or strawberries. The whole tree is aromatic, the bark in fact gives off an aroma of camphor, which can remain for days in the garden in case of pruning carried out on the bush. The calycanthus It is a large shrub or a small tree, and can easily withstand even intense frosts, as long as they do not persist for many days in a row. This plant is quite easily available in Italian nurseries, and does not require many treatments; compared to chimonanthus praecox it is slightly more demanding as far as watering is concerned, as it does not tolerate drought very well, and therefore it is preferred to place it in half-shade, in a place where it receives only direct sunlight in the morning, and sheltered from the heat afternoon rays.
Propagate the calicanto
The countless flowers of calicanto are transformed into semi-woody capsules, which contain the seeds; these seeds must be sown in early spring in a soil made of sand and peat in equal parts; the seeding tray can be left outdoors, because the seeds need a few weeks of cool climate to germinate; It is also important that the soil is kept moist, and that the seeds are not dried by direct sunlight. You can also produce cuttings, in late spring or in summer, using the tips of the branches, to which the leaves in the lower part are raised. The plants obtained from cuttings or from seeds develop quite quickly, and from a young seedling we can obtain a large well-developed shrub over a couple of years.
Calicanto - Chimonanthus praecox: Meaning of the calicanto
The meaning of the calicanto flower originates from a very pretty legend that has been handed down among plant lovers from generation to generation. In a cold winter where the snow fell copiously and covered all the vegetation, a shy robin was looking for rest under the protection of something that could repair it from the snow that kept falling. The robin roamed for days and days without finding a leaf or flower under which to find refreshment, until at a certain point I met the magical flower of the calicanto. Calicanto, a plant that flowers in winter, was the only species able to protect the robin and with its beautiful petals offer shelter to the cold bird. From this moment the calicanto became the flower symbol of affection and protection and is a flower that is given to communicate to someone the desire to offer protection. A nice gesture to give a person his will to protect her can be donating a sprig of calicanto.
Its botanical name is Chimonanthus and belongs to the calycanthacee family. In nature there are different types:
The plant whose Latin name is calicathus is a summer-flowering shrub, which produces large red flowers, very thick.
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