A deciduous bush up to 12 feet high, of twiggy habit; young shoots at first hairy, then rough. Leaves opposite, broadly ovate, long-pointed, rounded at the base, shallowly and remotely toothed, 1 to 3 in. long, 3⁄4 to 2 in. wide, dark dull green and sparsely hairy above, paler, prominently net-veined and bristly on the veins beneath, ciliate, chief veins three or four each side the midrib; stalk bristly, 1⁄12 to 1⁄8 in. long. Flowers twin, produced during May and June in corymbs 2 to 3 in. across, terminating short lateral twigs. Corolla bell-shaped, 5⁄8 in. long and the same in width at the mouth, where are five roundish, spreading lobes, pink with yellow in the throat, hairy. Calyx 1⁄2 in. across, with five or six very narrow, radiating lobes, hairy; flower-stalk 1⁄3 to 5⁄8 in. long, slender, hairy. Stamens four. Fruits egg-shaped, 1⁄4 in. long, covered with brown bristles 1⁄8 in. long. A curious feature is the persistent elongated calyx standing out beyond the fruit. Bot. Mag., t. 8563.
Native of the province of Hupeh, China, on the watershed of the Han and Yangtse rivers, where it occurs among rocks at 9,000 to 10,000 ft; introduced by Wilson for Messrs Veitch in 1901, and cultivated in the nursery at Coombe Wood, where it first flowered in June 1910. It received an Award of Merit when shown from Nymans, Sussex, in 1923, but for many years it was more prized in the United States than in Britain, where it did not become widely available in commerce until after the second world war. Even now this lovely species is not really common in gardens. One reason for this is perhaps that inferior seedlings have been distributed, with small, poorly coloured flowers. However there are now named clones available such as ‘Rosea’, raised in Holland, and ‘Pink Cloud’, raised at the R.H.S. Garden, Wisley, in 1946 from seeds received from the Morton Arboretum. Both have clear pink flowers of a good size and are very floriferous.
K. amabilis will grow on any soil and delights in chalk, but must be given a sunny position. It is easily propagated by cuttings of half-ripened wood, placed in gentle bottom-heat, or even by taking the suckers which it produces freely. It needs no regular pruning but once it is established a few of the older stems should be removed from the base each year. Vigorous young stems produced from the base of the plant are very thick and heavy; it is advisable to give these some support, to prevent their being snapped off by wind or heavy rain.