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Crinodendron hookerianum in the South Lakes

The sight of Crinodendron hookerianum (Chilean Lantern Tree)  family -  (Elaeocarpaceae) is really something to behold from the month of May through to August. If these beautiful pendant/lantern bright red flowers don't stop you in your tracks when walking around any garden, nothing will ! 
In it's native country of Chile the Crinodendron hookerianum grows by streams and shady woodland spots in humid conditions. In ideal conditions it could potentially reach 5 x 5 metres. 
After my position of Head Gardener for over 10 years in the North Cotswolds where I was fortunate enough to cultivate this outstanding small tree, I am fortunate enough once again to have the joy of not one, but three beautiful specimens in the garden at the Ryebeck on the edge of Lake Windermere. 
Going back to the Cotswolds.  In the winter of 2010/11 temperatures  went down to minus 12 degrees, exceptionally cold conditions. The Crinodendron was a mature specimen,  sited in a sheltered  semi shaded position which is the ideal aspect for flowering capacity and overall protection from the elements. An acidic moist soil is desired too. It was by good fortune in that Cotswold garden to experience a swathe of acid soil to grow Rhododendrons, unusual for that part of the country.  Back to that winter. The Crinodendron was killed to just below a metre above  the ground level. The physical act of pruning the small tree back to the live wood rejuvenated it back to life. A season of flowering was missed, there were little flowers the following year, and a gradual pick up each season thereafter. Winter protection was followed up after that initial winter freeze from 2010/11this took the form of straw wrapped with fleece. 
I Digress.
In  March 2012,  the RHS Plantsman journal( now RHS Plants Review) covered an interesting subject area of plant hardiness. I wrote a piece for the Plantsman on the National Collection of Arbutus species that I was cultivating and propagating at that time, and through the ten years of my position of Head Gardener. It was Interesting to note that a mature specimen of Arbutus 'Marina' had been struck back to ground level at minus 12 degrees that winter, and only metres away from the Crinodendron in question. 

Crinodendron hookerianum in the South Lakes ( Ryebeck)

Crinodendron hookerianum in the South Lakes ( Ryebeck)

Since moving to the South Lakes in late December 2016, we haven't experienced those temperatures from 2010/11, the lowest has averaged around -4 within that period. The three Crinodendrons face south/east, semi shaded, and all situated in sheltered positions. 
I am currently in lock down as of course so many others are, although may be more unusually so for a minority of gardeners as nature continues to take a hold and gardens soon become over grown. The solace that I have is that for the last 9 weeks I am enjoying developing our quarter of an acre wildlife garden, how did I even find time to go to work! 
My plan when hopefully returning to the Ryebeck is to develop areas for perennial planting features beneath one of the Crinodendrons. The one in question is situated by the drive exit and so will make for an Interesting shady perennial planting feature linking with the Crinodendron. As with other areas of development of semi shaded planting an interesting selection of Hosta species beneath the Crinodendron hookerianum will be planted. 


The planting of a good selection of Hosta species associated with the Crinodendron will feature too as part of my Healing Gardens project.

Kevin Line Posted by Kevin Line

Kevin works as a Freelance Horticultural Plant Consultant in the south Lake District.

He is a member of Butterfly Conservation and the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the Hardy Plant Society, the Wildflower Society, and the Botanical Society Of Britain & Ireland. He also writes for the RHS Plant Review (formerly RHS Plantsman), he is currently researching historic plant propagation/ taxonomy for the Gardens Trust ( formerly Garden History Society ).

Kevin had previously worked for three and a half years developing the garden of an Arts & Crafts period Country House Hotel to National Gardens Scheme standard. (South Lakes)

He has also previously worked as Head Gardener in the Cotswolds for over 10 years, prior to that, BBC Gardeners World, and the National Trust.

3 Comments To "Crinodendron hookerianum in the South Lakes"

Kevin Line On 27.06.2020
NOTE Smaller trees such as Cercidiphylum japonicum can be affected in similar ways during warmer dry spells losing foliage. Consistent watering rejuvenates new foliage during mid season. Diagnosis - *Drying winter winds and beyond can effect the flowering and foliage on Crinodendrons. This is particularly the case if the aspect is slightly exposed rather than in semi - deep shade. * Prolonged dry spells could also contribute as Crinodendrons prefer a moist / humid aspect. Please let me know how things hopefully move forward on this. All the best Kevin Reply to this comment
Kevin Line On 27.06.2020
Dear Anne, Thank you for your response and question. Three things spring to mind. Plus I can suggest some techniques which hopefully will get the ball rolling to bring the Crinodendron hookerianum in question back to glory from next spring. Firstly - Some possible remedies. * A standard light autumn prune on this 15 year specimen could assist in promoting the flowering process. At the same time the removal of any dead wood to allow light into the centre. * I mulch with good garden compost at the base in spring or autumn on damp/ wet days. Go against the grain this summer and select a nice wet day to do this to conserve moisture around the base. * During dry spells water well with a hose at the base, before and after mulching. See NOTE in second response to follow. Reply to this comment
Anne-Marie Clark On 26.06.2020
Hi Kevin. Great article on Crinodendrons. I'm a gardener and have a client with a very poorly one. It's lost it's lustre including most of it's leaves and the flowers have shrivelled and many dropped off. Do you have any advice on what might be the issue? It's a very well established shrub and probably about 15 years old. I'm trying hard to save it! Reply to this comment
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