Kolkwitzia amabilis – which is better known as the beauty bush – is a large-growing deciduous shrub that belongs to the caprifoliaceae family. Although they are indigenous to China, these plants can now be seen growing throughout Europe and the United States – being particularly popular in eastern portions of America. These large plants generally grow between 6 and 10 feet, and are almost always as wide as they are tall. The bark is a light ashy brown and tends to flake over time. The long, arching branches bear dark green, smooth, ovate leaves that turn into bright shades of red or yellow in autumn. They also bear brilliant sprays of flowers. The blossoms are a tubular shape which flare slightly at the opening. They appear in deep, reddish pink or a more common pink that fades into a yellow hue.
The beauty bush was initially discovered growing in the Shensi province of China by an Italian missionary named Giraldi. Although the missionary sent seeds west, the plant was not grown until it was rediscovered by the well known collector, Ernest Henry Wilson. During one of his many travels, he found the plant blooming in the Hubei province and sent his seeds to the Vietch & Sons nursery in Exeter. When it finally began to grow in 1910, Wilson christened the plant Kolkwitzia after the German botanist and professor, Richard Kolkwitz. The beauty bush crept its way into the United States around the early 1920’s, and became a very popular shrub around the 1930’s. This was due not only to the spectacular splash of color that it added to a fine garden, but also because it was quite simple to care for – being mostly free of pests and diseases.
Because of its common name, it is not hard to associate the beauty bush with the symbols of attractiveness and refinement. Because of its appearance, you might also feel that this plant represents grace and dignity. As a gift, beauty bushes can be presented in a number of ways. If the recipient is an avid gardener, you may want to give them a packet of seeds or a small, young shrub that will later require transplantation. You might also consider picking the flowers and leaves to create a small bouquet that can easily represent the fascination you hold for the recipient.