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A low, deciduous shrub of bushy form 2 to 5 ft high; twigs glabrous. Leaves obovate or oblong, 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. long, 1⁄2 to 1 in. wide, saw-toothed, dark glossy green above, pale beneath, glabrous on both surfaces. Flowers one to three on each bud of the previous year’s shoots, rosy red, 1⁄2 in. long, 1⁄2 in. or more in diameter. Fruit like a small almond, 1 in. long, covered with velvety down, not often produced in England. Bot. Mag., t. 161.
Native of S.W. Russia and parts of Central and S.E. Europe; long cultivated in this country (Aiton says since 1683). It is very pretty shrub, flowering abundantly in April, growing well on its own roots, and easily increased by layering. In spite of this it is frequently grafted on plum, and is short-lived in consequence.
P. tenella is a variable species in size, leaf-shape, relative length of sepals to calyx-tube, flower colour, etc. Plants with relatively broad leaves are sometimes distinguished as var. campestris (Bess.) Rehd. and plants with dark pink flowers, of which several clones have been introduced to cultivation, are known collectively as f. gessleriana (Kirchn.) Rehd. Of these the best known in Britain is ‘Fire Hill’, introduced by Lady Martineau from the Balkans; it received an Award of Merit in 1959. In ‘Alba’ the flowers are white.
The plant described by Desfontaines in 1809 as Amygdalus georgica is considered by Rehder to be synonymous with P. tenella. Some Russian botanists recognise it as a distinct species, though the differences adduced are not very convincing.