A really lovely hardy shrub or small tree, native to Hubei province in central China and only first collected in the wild in 1970 and subsequently described scientifically in 1916.
Heptacodium miconioides is fully hardy, as would be expected of a plant native to continental China where winter temperatures can fall to as low as -25C ,and it will thrive in full sun or light shade on any reasonably fertile soil. Ours is growing in the typically sandy-loam of south Norfolk, and after a decade has reached a height of about 15 feet.
Bears masses of fragrant creamy white flowers, clustered into groups of seven flowers, hence the rather exotic common name. By late summer the calyces of the spent flowers turn a striking red, almost looking to the untrained eye as if there is a second flowering. In September to October, following a warm autumn and in a sheltered spot, vivid red seed capsules from- unfortunately something we have yet to see on the specimen we have growing in the nursery garden.
Heptacodium miconioides also produces a very stiking display of autumn leaf colour, with the large, handsome leaves turning to rich shades of red.
As the plant matures the grey 'cracked' bark starts to exfoliate in long thin strips, hence leading to another common name: the 'ribbon bark' tree. Full height in the UK is likely to be in the region of 4 to 8m.
Given all these positive characteristics the one aspect of Heptacodium miconioides that is really surpring is that it remains rare in UK horticulture, where it should be planted much more widely.