The Tree Center

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Keepsake Mountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia ‘Keepsake’

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How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me

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The Keepsake Kalmia is a medium-sized evergreen shrub that will grow to 4 or 5 feet tall and wide. The attractive glossy leaves are rich green all year round, and the pink flower buds are showy for months, through winter and early spring. They open into unique 5-sided flower cups, in dark pink with detailed white markings – a gorgeous bloom to gaze deeply into. This showy plant grows in the same conditions as azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias, and is a great addition to your garden.

  • Dark pink buds in winter and early spring
  • Stunning early-summer blooms of dark-pink and white
  • Year-round attractive evergreen foliage
  • Grows well in partial shade or beneath trees
  • Does best in acid soils

The Keepsake Kalmia should be planted in partial shade, with morning sun only, or in light full shade, like the north side of a building, or beneath deciduous trees. It needs acid soil with a pH below 6.0, and moist, well-drained soil. Avoid clay soils and wet places, but water regularly. Pests and diseases are rare, and deer won’t eat it. The only attention needed is to remove the spent flowers as soon as they have finished blooming, without cutting off leaves. Avoid pruning, which can reduce bloom production.

Plant Hardiness Zones 5-9
Mature Width 4-5
Mature Height 4-5
Soil Conditions Well-Drained Soil
Sunlight Partial Shade
Drought Tolerance Moderate Drought Tolerance
Zones 5-9

Spectacular shrubs are always welcome in the garden, and they don’t have to be huge plants to be eye-catching and appealing. Glorious in bloom in one thing, but what a plant looks like the rest of the year is vital too. The perfect bush will be attractive every day, as well as putting on a wonderful display during its flowering season. We put a lot of work into tracking down plants that fit this description, because we know just how valuable and worthwhile they are to our customers. You’ll understand, then, why we got excited about this wonderful bush when we had the opportunity to add it to our catalogue. The Keepsake Kalmia is gorgeous, yet it’s a compact, 4 to 5 foot tall bush that fits well into smaller gardens. It’s definitely a dual-purpose plant, because the glossy leaves and rounded form keep it attractive all year round, while the blooming season is simply wonderful. The rich red coloring of the blooms is enhanced by the white detailing on them, and this charmer wins hearts wherever it is seen – it has everything.

Growing the Keepsake Kalmia

Size and Appearance

The Keepsake Kalmia grows into a mounded bush, reaching 4 or 5 feet tall, with a similar spread. At that size it’s perfect for the middle of larger beds or the back of smaller ones, or for tucking into a corner anywhere. The foliage is always attractive and the leaves are 2 or 3 inches long, smooth ovals with a glossy, dark-green surface. They cluster densely on the branches, which are many, keeping even mature plants full and attractive.

By early winter you will see curious clusters of tiny red stems growing at the ends of every branch. These look like clenched fingers, and slowly, through winter and early spring, they develop into large clusters of unique, dark pink buds which are as attractive as many flowers, and very showy. Each one looks like a fluted cone or some exotic piece of porcelain sculpture. As they mature each bud develops a white end. In late May, continuing into June, these buds open into large, 1-inch diameter flowers that look like 5-sided bowls. They are dark pink, with a fine white line outlining the edge and a star-like cluster of white stamens in the center – a wonderful miniature art-work just like some vintage keepsake.

Using the Keepsake Kalmia in Your Garden

Because it has such attractive foliage and bushy form, you can use the Keepsake Kalmia as an evergreen in foundation planting, or at the back of beds. Use it beneath large trees, or in a woodland garden behind azaleas and rhododendrons. It is always lovely, wherever you grow it.

Hardiness

You can grow this plant everywhere from cool, northern zone 5 to northern Florida or Oregon, in zone 9.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

The Keepsake Kalmia is the perfect shrub for those partially-shaded spots where many shrubs don’t flower well. It grows best with some morning sun followed by afternoon shade, and also thrives on the north side of buildings, in the summer shadow, and beneath open deciduous trees in light full shade. Avoid areas shaded by large evergreens, which are usually too dark. This plant needs acid soil, with a pH of no more than 6.0, and preferably below 5.5. The soil should be moist but well-drained, so avoid places with heavy clay, and lighten the soil with acid-free organic material. Rich but sandy soils are ideal.

Maintenance and Pruning

Even deer don’t bother with the Keepsake Kalmia, and neither do pests or diseases. Keep young plants well-watered, and established plants do have limited resistance to ordinary summer dry periods. It is best to avoid pruning as much as possible, as this tends to reduce blooming. The only attention needed is to remove the spent flower heads, without removing any leaves, as you do for rhododendrons. This prevents seeding and encourages more blooms for the following year.

History and Origin of the Keepsake Kalmia

The mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, is the only species normally grown in gardens from small group of plants, which has only 7 species in it. It grows wild all through the east, except for the hottest and coldest parts, usually in mountain forests or on slopes. There are several natural forms, and one, called fuscata, has a band of brownish-purple around the inside of the flower cup. Although not apparent in the variety called ‘Keepsake’, it was the source of the dark flower color, and explains the band of white around the edge. This unique plant was created by the world-authority on Kalmia, Richard A. Jaynes, who was a professional geneticist and breeder at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. Before leaving and setting up his own nursery, he bred many new forms, using unusual plants collected in the wild. ‘Keepsake’ was found among seedlings from a cross done in 1983, and after study and trials it was released into the waiting arms of nurseries and gardeners in 1997.

Buying the Keepsake Kalmia at the Tree Center

If you haven’t been growing kalmia, you have been missing out on great beauty in your garden. The Keepsake Kalmia is a perfect plant to start with, or to add to your existing collection, but order now, because our stock is very limited.

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Keepsake Mountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia ‘Keepsake’