Must have or not

Yellow wax bells (Kirengshoma palmata, below) should not be at the top of a gardeners’ must-have list, I think, but in early spring I scoured online plant listings to find this pleasant but unremarkable summer bloomer with large, maple-like foliage. Finally, I found a single source, and purchased three.

One planted years ago survives, but it is clearly not content in soil that is perhaps too compacted and probably too shaded. A year ago this meager clump was split into three, with a section left undisturbed and two small sections moved into better ground, or at least what I presume to be better for whatever it is that is lacking in its current position. I did not expect the transplants to survive, thus the new acquisitions, so now there are six. I will be disappointed if at least one does not show increased vigor, but it is too early to tell.

I know that wax bells can do better. Two Korean wax bells (Kirengshoma koreana, below) are just finishing their summer flowering, with one thriving in good soil in part shade, and a second in drier ground with root competition just slightly behind in growth. Both are more vigorous than their cousin planted years earlier. While differences in the period of flowering and the shape of the bloom are distinct, the two wax bells are similar enough to expect that what suits one will also be ideal for the other. I must figure what that is.

I understand that this near obsession is a trifle batty, but I’ve been perplexed by the lacking in one wax bell compared to another fifteen feet away. Often, I explain that there can be multiple differences in soil, moisture, and sun exposure for plants within inches, but that trite explanation was not satisfactory for my purposes, so here I am.

A plant must not be beautiful or even notable to capture my attention, it seems, and who can explain this? A distant hydrangea relative, Platycrater arguta ‘Kaeda’ (above) does not have large, showy flowers, or unique foliage. In fact, the small, yellow centered, white blooms are hidden beneath the foliage. But, I was overjoyed to obtain one. Why? Ask my wife and she’ll just shake her head. I fear that is all the explanation necessary.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Bridget says:

    I have a Yellow wax bell plant that is now, what I call, “hunky”. It’s in rich soil with morning sun and it’s quite the looker. It’s grown quite a bit larger than I was expecting. Now currently taking up a lot of space at maybe 3′ x 3′. Love it!

    1. Dave says:

      If I was to ever call a plant “hunky”, the one Korean wax bell is nearly up to that high standard.

  2. Linus says:

    First year my K.p. flowered and then died from rot/wilt. Subsequent plants of regular K.p. the deer ate it, so I haven’t seen flowers. I got a black stemmed variety (‘Black Style’) from Issima, protected with a tomato cage from the deer, but so far no black stems.

    1. Dave says:

      Kirengshoma is the one plant in the garden that I fear for its survival when it wilts in heat and drought. But, three inches of rain arrives just as I consider pulling out the hoses.

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