Spring and early summer are prime times in the garden, when everything is fresh and new. There is a big rush of flowers at the beginning, and then a lull, before the summer blooms arrive. Shrubs that flower in that gap are especially valuable, and blooming at that time is just one of the many garden assets of the Minuet Mountain Laurel, a gorgeous shrub for shady parts of the garden, that is as beautiful in woodlands as it is in more formal garden spaces.
The Minuet Mountain Laurel is a dwarf shrub with attractive evergreen foliage and a rounded form, growing just 3 feet tall and wide. The leaves are 2 to 3 inches long, oval and tapering, with a leathery texture and glossy surface. They are rich dark green on the top, and a paler, more yellow green on the underside. The evergreen foliage is effective all year round, so even when not in flower this plant is a valuable garden asset, contributing substance and form to your landscaping.
The flower buds of the Minuet Mountain Laurel develop early, showing as small, scaly red clusters on short stems among the leaves all winter. They form on the ends of the shoots of the previous year. As spring comes, they grow and develop, turning into light pink clusters and looking showy and attractive long before they open. Blooms usually open in late May and early June, depending on your climate zone, after the earliest shrubs and flowers have faded. The large clusters contain many individual flowers, and they are 6 inches across, at the ends of every stem, making a spectacular blooming effect. Blooms last a long time, and this shrub is effective for several weeks. The individual flowers are one inch across, shaped like a cup with 5 sides. They are white, with a prominent red band around the rim, edged in white, and delicate red marking at the base of the cup. The effect of all the blooms is wonderful, and it really is like they are dancing a stately minuet in full skirts, across the plant.
The Minuet Mountain Laurel is a wonderful plant for almost any garden situation. Because it is beautiful in bloom, and attractive even when simply leaves, it can be planted in high-profile beds, such as around your home, or along pathways. Plant single bushes in smaller beds, groups of 3, 5 or 7 in larger ones, or plant it all along the front of a bed as a beautiful edging. Grow it in woodland areas, under trees, by water or on banks and slopes. This plant has a fibrous root system, and it grows well for many years in planters and pots. This is an excellent way to grow it if you don’t have the right soil conditions
The Minuet Mountain Laurel grows in a wide range of light conditions, from full sun in cooler zones on damp soil, to partial shade, and in light full shade too, such as beneath large deciduous trees. Morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal for it, especially in warmer zones. It is hardy across most of the country, from zone 5 to zone 9. This plant does have some needs for soil. The ideal soil is acidic, with a pH below 6, and it grows well in very acidic soils too. Sandy soils are best, because it enjoys moisture, but good drainage too. Heavy clay soils are not very suitable, although if you plant on slopes or in raised beds, that will give better drainage in heavy soils. The soil should be cool and rich, so incorporate lots of acidic materials, like rotted leaves, peat moss, or lime-free compost into the soil, and use similar materials as mulch to cool the soil and keep it moist. If grown in sun the soil should be kept cool and moist with mulch and regular watering. Established plants have some limited drought tolerance, but they should not be left dry for long.
If you don’t have these conditions, don’t worry, because this plant is ideal for growing in containers, and with its compact size it will thrive for years. Use pots with drainage holes and fill them with potting soil blended for acid-loving plants like azaleas, camellias and hydrangeas. Fertilize regularly with liquid fertilizer for acid-loving plants.
The Minuet Mountain Laurel needs very little care once the light and soil conditions are satisfied. Pests and diseases are rare, and no pruning is required. Since the seed pods are not very attractive, it is best to remove the flower clusters once they have faded, and this also encourages maximum flowering for the next year – nothing else is needed.
The Minuet Mountain Laurel is a special form of the mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia. This plant is native to a large area of eastern America, growing all the way from southern Maine through New England to northern Florida, and west as far as Indiana and Louisiana. It is the state flower of both Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Wild plants grow on slopes and across the forest floor in mountainous areas. It is normally a shrub 5 to 15 feet tall, and more rarely a tree to 30 feet. The flowers are white with small red markings inside them. This plant was rarely grown in gardens before the geneticist and plant breeder Richard A. Jaynes took an interest in it. First at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven from 1961, and then from 1984 at his nursery, the Broken Arrow Nursery in Hamden, Connecticut, he produced many wonderful plants. The one called ‘Minuet’ is his best dwarf form, which he began developing in 1978 and introduced in 1988. It is considered an outstanding variety and always in high demand. We have a good supply of top-quality plants, but the demand is strong, so order now while our stocks last – they will soon be gone.