Companion Plants: New Mountain Laurels
L. Clarence Towe
Walhalla, South Carolina
The diversity of Kalmia latifolia continues to widen with the introduction of two new laurels by Dr. Richard Jaynes. 'Galaxy', perhaps his most unusual selection to date, resulted from a cross between a shooting-star type and a wide-banded K. 'Fuscata' type. The flowers open from white buds, have five burgundy petals edged with narrow white margins and are shaped more like those of an azalea than a laurel. (Perhaps his Ph.D. is in alchemy rather than botany.)
'Peppermint', representing a new pattern in laurels, is a selection from a cross between two star-ring types that has white flowers with burgundy spokes radiating outward from the centers, very similar to those of peppermint rounds. It is available now with 'Galaxy' to follow in 1995.
| Kalmia 'Peppermint'.
Photo by L. Clarence Towe
A recently named laurel is 'Willowood', found years ago in South Carolina by Bob McCartney of Woodlanders Inc. A choice rock garden plant with small white flowers with burgundy dots in the anther pockets, it is similar to Dr. Jaynes' 'Willowcrest' on a half scale. It grows slowly to 30 inches and has narrow leaves to 2 inches by ¼ inch. Perhaps only the second example of K. latifolia f. angustata to have been found in the wild, it should be available from The Cummins Garden in limited numbers in 1995.
Two unusual laurels have recently been verified that are noteworthy. The first, a variegated form, was located in a remote nursery in the Balsam Mountains of western North Carolina. It has dark green leaves marbled with yellow areas in a very attractive pattern. The second, recently acquired by Dr. Jaynes from New Zealand, is a rare double flowered form that should add a new dimension to the species. Perhaps he can dust off his wire cage pollinator, humiliate a few bumblebees1 and develop a full double hose-in-hose laurel—with red flowers and variegated leaves, if you please.
1 The phrase "humiliate a few bumblebees" refers to Dr. Jaynes' practice of cleaning bumblebees of foreign pollen by swabbing them with a mild alcohol solution. They are then put into a large cage with the two plants to be cross-pollinated, thus eliminating tedious handwork. Those who have read Laurels II should appreciate this.
Dr. Towe is a member of the Azalea Chapter.