Calicans are medium-sized, deciduous shrubs originating in China; in fact, the common name refers to plants belonging to the calycanthaceae genus, 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 messy shrub, with several erect stems, well ramified, which originate a thick and intricate vegetation; the leaves appear in spring, after or during the flowering, and are elongated, very similar to those of a peach tree or of a willow, lanceolate, of medium green colour.
The peculiar characteristic of the calicanto are definitely the flowers, which bloom in the middle of winter, in February or March, regardless of weather conditions, and well before the plant has begun to produce the leaves, the result is a shrub apparently dry, completely covered with very fragrant flowers. The flowers bloom from the old wood, without petiole; they are provided with elongated petals, waxy, of white or yellow colour.
Decorative shrub, very rustic and resistant, which survives without problems to the winters of northern Italy, without fear of frost and snow, produces yellow or white flowers, very fragrant. In late spring it fills up with leaves, even if without the flowers it becomes a fairly anonymous shrub, without decorative details; its erect appearance and intertwined ramifications make it suitable also for creating hedges, even though it loses its foliage in the winter months.
Plant of easy cultivation, once settled in the garden tends to settle for the water of the weather and not to need special care. Pruning is carried out in spring, after the flowers have withered.
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- To plant the Calicanto in the garden it is better to choose a sunny place, in which to dig a hole wide and at least 20 cm deeper, compared to the size of the clod in which the plant is rooted.
- This cornel is native to North America, where it is an essential part of the flora of the undergrowth of the foothills: this is why we are perfectly at ease in the Alps and in the Appenines.
The chimonanthus nitens is a shrub with evergreen leaves, oval in shape, or lanceolate, dark green in colour, quite leathery; the stems are reddish, or brown red, and the colour of the foliage contrasts well with that of the bark; these shrubs are native to China, and can easily withstand the winter climate, but it is difficult to find them in Italian nurseries.
Flowering takes place in spring, and is formed by small white or pale yellow flowers, bell-shaped, with linear petals, slightly waxy; the flowers of this calicanthus do not smell or have a delicate perfume. The shrub can reach some metres of height, and tends, with the time, to empty in the lower part, thus requiring pruning, in order to maintain a compact and dense posture.
Cultivating the Calicanto
The success of chimonanthus praecox in the garden is essentially due to the fact that, even if they come from such far away places, they survive, without any problems, the winter cold, and also the summer heat; they settle in a sunny, or even semi-shaded, place, in a cool and very well drained, acid or alkaline, soil, without causing great inconvenience to the plant.
As soon as planted, at least in the first year of development of the young plant, it is advisable to water the soil around the stem, every time it is dry; in spring and autumn we should spread at the foot of the shrub a granular slow release fertilizer, rich in microelements. In the following years, once the plant has adapted well to the life in our garden, we can water even only sporadically, when there are periods of great heat, associated with drought.
Pruning is not strictly necessary, it is carried out in case of very developed plants, or with an excessively elongated posture. Usually these shrubs never empty in the lower part, as the roots continue to produce new basal suckers, which tend to keep the shrub dense throughout its length.
Pests and diseases
Aphids often afflict 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 prevent them from reproducing quickly, spreading throughout the garden. Excessive watering, or life in a soil often soaked in water, can cause rottenness at the roots, which can lead to the sudden death of entire branches, usually, the suspension of watering solves the problem.
Generally, however, calicans are left to their own devices, and therefore rainfall is unlikely to be so intense that the soil is always soaked. Occasionally it may happen that some branches are damaged by the summer heat, it is sufficient to remove them and water the canopy, so as to increase the ambient humidity, and prevent the leaves from sagging.
These operations should 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 sunshine, promotes the development of sunburn.
In fact, in the family of calycanthaceae there is a plant called calycanthus: it is a shrub native to North America, with deciduous leaves, oval, and dark green in color, in summer this plant produces beautiful cup-shaped flowers, bright red in color, consisting of several linear petals arranged in a spiral, these flowers have a very intense and characteristic scent of ripe fruit, or strawberries.
The whole tree is aromatic, the bark in fact exudes the aroma of camphor, which can remain for days in the garden in case of pruning on the shrub. The calycanthus is a large shrub or a small tree, and can bear even intense freezings without any problems, provided they do not persist for many days in a row.
This plant is quite easily found in Italian nurseries, and does not need a lot of care, compared to the chimonanthus praecox is slightly more demanding for what the watering is concerned, as it does not bear very well the drought, and therefore we prefer to place it in a place where it receives only the direct sunlight of the morning, and sheltered from the warm rays of the afternoon.
The countless flowers of the calicanthus transform in semi-woody capsules, which contain the seeds; these seeds are to be sown by early spring in a mould formed by sand and peat in equal parts; the sowing tray may be left in open air, as the seeds need some weeks of cool climate in order to germinate; it is, however, important that the mould is kept humid, and that the seeds are not dried up by the direct sunlight.
Cuttings can also be produced, in late spring or in summer, utilizing the apexes of the branches, at which the leaves rise in the lower part. The plants obtained from cuttings or seeds develop quite rapidly, and from a young seedling we can obtain a large well-developed shrub within a couple of years.
Calicanto – Chimonanthus praecox: Meaning of calicanto
The meaning of the calicanto flower originates from a very nice legend that has been handed down among plant lovers from generation to generation. In a cold winter where the snow fell abundantly and covered all the vegetation, a shy robin sought rest under the protection of something that could protect him from the snow that continued to fall.
The robin turned for days and days without finding a leaf or a flower under which to find refreshment, until at some point I meet the magical flower of the calicanto. The calicanto, a plant that blooms in winter, was the only species able to protect the robin and with its beautiful petals offered 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 their willingness to protect it can be to give a sprig of calicanto.
- Its botanical name is Chimonanthus and belongs to the family of calycanthaceae. In nature there are several types:
visits : calicantus
- The plant whose Latin name is calicathus is a summer flowering shrub, which produces large red flowers, very par
visits : chimonanthus praecox