arhs Yachts International
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Kirengeshoma palmata

By Chris Helleiner

The flowering season of most perennials reaches its peak in July, so a showy plant that flowers in September is very welcome in our gardens. That’s Kirengeshoma palmata, known as Yellow Waxy Bells. It is a member of the hydrangea family, a herbaceous perennial, dying down completely in the winter, but when it is in full growth it looks quite a lot like a woody shrub. The stems reach about 4 feet (1.5 meters) in height, and the leaves look quite similar to a Norway maple (Acer platanoides), hence the palmata of its name. Kirengeshoma is said to be the Japanese name of an unrelated but similar-looking plant. The flowers are nodding, bright yellow bells, about 1½ inches (3 cm) long, the petals only slightly separated. There are said to be forms with apricot coloured flowers, but I have not seen these.

K. palmata is native to southern Japan and Korea. Some authorities consider the Korean form to be a separate species, K. coreana. We have both of them, they do look a bit different, and so far K. coreana has been a weaker grower. As far as I can remember our K. palmata came from a nursery in British Columbia, but it is now available from time to time at local garden centres. We planted it about six years ago in our garden in Pictou County, where it thrived, and moved it to our Halifax garden three years later. It has been equally happy in both places, though the soils are quite different. Both locations have morning sun for about half the day. The only care we give it is a dose of general fertilizer in the spring and regular watering in dry weather. We give it a peony ring support as the stems lengthen, because they do tend to flop. The plant is now about 3 feet (1 meter) in diameter and still growing. So far it has not suffered any winter damage; the lowest temperature it has experienced is -23°C.

Kirengeshoma palmata has proved to be a very worthwhile addition to our plant collection, and I can recommend it to others.