Is There Ink (Enk) in Your Garden?

17 May Is There Ink (Enk) in Your Garden?

Is There Ink (Enk) in Your Garden?



Years ago, when I became engaged, my best man Jan Mihalek asked me what kind of bachelor party I wanted. In lieu of the traditional night of debauchery, he offered a week in Europe watching European club soccer matches. Both graduates of Rutgers University and past members of their soccer team, we headed for Europe. Before taking the hydrofoil across the Oresund Sea or “the Sound” (which connects the Baltic Sea with the Kattegat Straight) to Malmo, Sweden we had some time and visited Tivoli Garden in Kobenhavn or Copenhagen, Denmark. Knowing, even then, of my admiration for both flora and fauna, Jan set some time aside in our schedule and introduced me to Tivoli. Tivoli Gardens, for those who don’t know, is unlike any amusement park you have ever seen. Steeped in history, over a century and a half old, it is a true life fairy tale. Walt Disney visited Tivoli in 1958 and used the experience as inspiration for Disneyland. It is everything you would expect an amusement park to be. Roller coasters and eateries are plentiful, but around those corners lies the tranquility of old gardens. One plant that still sticks out in my mind that I saw there is Enkianthus campanulatus.

Enkianthus’s botanical name is also widely accepted as a common name. A deciduous ornamental, Enkianthus is an upright shrub which reaches heights of 6-15 feet. Planting distances from one another should be 4-6 feet apart. A refined, elegant plant, Enkianthus is a gorgeous woodland plant which lends itself well as a single specimen, is useful in small groupings and mixes well with other ericaceous plants. You could train it as a small tree if you were so inclined and appreciate its seasonal attributes, of which there are plenty. Similar conditions that rhododendron and azaleas enjoy, so too will your Enkianthus. Cool, moist soils which are acidic make this plant feel right at home. The flowers are what most rave about, however. Small, bell-shaped, creamy-yellow flowers with red veins are something to marvel at in May and June. These flowers are held in pendulous clusters and while they seem dainty, this is one durable plant. There are few pests associated with Enkianthus, although scale and spider mites have been reported in hot locations. The fall color can be random, but yellows, oranges and reds are something to look for. Often when I see Enkianthus with fall color I am reminded of Parrotia persica’s (Persian Parrotia or Ironwood) fall color. Always inconsistent, but something to seek out, no two plants have the same fall markings.

The fact that most Enkianthus are seed-grown, thus contributing to inconsistencies with fall color and flowers has led to selected clones, or cultivars, and their apparent stability. ‘Red Bells’ is probably the most common cultivar found in independent garden centers. With consistent flower color, ‘Red Bells’ has its flower tips dipped in red and the fall color is a reliable red. Overall heights for this cultivar are far smaller than the species, thus making it ideal for smaller landscapes. ‘Renoir’, named by Rob Nicholson formerly of the Arnold Arboretum, has exciting creamy-yellow flowers with purplish veins in May. Bright oranges, yellows and reds are more consistent throughout than the species. ‘Jan Iseli Pink’ has “colossal clusters of pink, cup-shaped flowers that droop from slender branches” (Iseli Nursery). A kaleidoscope of colors, shades from yellow to red, is always seen in the fall. “Jean Iseli Red’, as you would imagine, has red flowers and a remarkable deep red fall color. Finally, ‘Sikokianus’ is widely considered to be the darkest flowered Enkianthus. Maroon flower buds open to brick-red flowers. Difficult to procure, but worth the effort, this and any of the above cultivars will offer color and versatility to your garden.

Georg Carstensen, the founder of Tivoli Gardens said in 1844: “Tivoli will never, so to speak, be finished,” a sentiment echoed just over a century later when Walt Disney said of his own Tivoli-inspired theme park, “Disneyland will never be finished as long as there is imagination left in the world” ( I share, in part, this sentiment in that the botanical journey I am on will also never be finished. Profoundly humbling, there are simply too many plants and not enough time. New cultivars come out every day. The imagination and efforts from those past and present will always leave me inspired to create new and exciting gardens.