ShadyGardens Blog

August 22, 2013

Clethra: Sweet Pepper Bush

Filed under: Bush, butterflies, Clethra, fragrant, Hummingbird, native, pepper, pink, ruby, shrub, sixteen candles, Summersweet, Sweet — shadygardens @ 4:50 pm
Clethra is one of my favorite native plants, but more importantly, it’s a favorite plant of butterflies and other pollinators! Clethra alnifolia, better known as Summersweet or Sweet Pepper Bush, is wonderful native plant that blooms in late summer. Obviously the common name ‘Summersweet’ comes from the very sweet-smelling blooms that appear right in the heat of the summer. The other common name ‘Sweet Pepper Bush’ comes from the attractive seed capsules that closely resemble Peppercorns.
The fragrant blooms which are 6-inch long spikes last for more than a month and attract many pollinators.






There’s a Clethra for every garden, since this shrub is available in both large-growing and dwarf varieties. But when I say ‘available’ I realize that Clethra is truly difficult to find in nurseries. Why, I do not know.






My favorite is ‘Ruby Spice’ since I’m a fan of pink flowers, but the white-blooming ‘Hummingbird’ is much sought after, probably due to the beauty of the shrubs planted en mass around Hummingbird Lake at the famous Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

If your garden requires a dwarf shrub, seek out ‘Sixteen Candles’–a more compact plant that seems to have more bloom spikes than possible! The name was given to this plant by Michael Dirr because the upright bloom spikes really do resemble candles on a birthday cake. This plant is truly spectacular!



Whichever you find, you can count yourself lucky to have this plant in your garden. It requires only consistent moisture to keep it happy. (I’m sorry, I do know that consistent moisture is hard to provide in Georgia these days, but if you have a wet spot, a pond edge, a soaker hose, or even, as in our case, stopped up field lines because your wife didn’t know any better than to plant a Weeping Willow in the wrong spot, this shrub is definitely worth the trouble!)






Of course, my favorite online source for native plants is Shady Gardens Nursery.


May 24, 2012

Calycanthus floridus: Sweet Smelling Shrub with Many Names

Filed under: betsy, bubby, Bush, calycanthus, floridus, fragrant, gardens, native, nursery, plant, red, shade, Shady, shrub, Sweet — shadygardens @ 7:49 pm

Calycanthus floridus, Sweet Shrub
Shady Gardens Nursery

Calycanthus floridus has many common names: Sweetshrub, Carolina Allspice, Strawberry Shrub, Pineapple Shrub, Sweet Betsy, but my favorite is “Bubby Bush,” since we call our little boy Bubby.

This
beautiful deciduous shrub grows slowly and will eventually form mounds up to 8 feet tall.
As the sweetshrub suckers vigorously, the mounds increase in width and will eventually
form a thicket.

The many common names of Calycanthus floridus refer its aromatic properties. Most of you are probably familiar with the wonderful fruity scent produced by the unusual flowers. Rusty reddish brown or brownish red blossoms are 1-2 inches across. The blooms adorn the plant in Spring and sporadically  throughout the Summer months. Not only are the flowers sweet-smelling, but also the leaves, bark, twigs, and even the roots have a spicy fragrance.

The 4
inch long leaves are rich deep green. Soft and
fuzzy to the touch, they turn bright golden yellow in autumn.

Calycanthus floridus is native to the moist
woodlands of the Southeastern United States. Its range extends from Virginia,
south to Florida, and West to Mississippi.  Sweetshrub is appreciated as a landscape
plant in Europe and deserves more attention from gardeners here in the United States.

Sweetshrub is easy to grow in average soil, is easy to care for, and is
essentially pest-free! Deer do not usually eat Sweetshrub.


Light: Thrives in medium shade or filtered sun.


Moisture: Likes moist soil. Water when dry.
This shrub can survive periods of drought if necessary, but will perform much better with regular water.


Calycanthus floridus can be grown throughout most of the country, as it is hardy in USDA Zones 5 – 9. 


Try drying the flowers, leaves, twigs and bark for use in potpourri.

For an even sweeter fragrance, try Calycanthus
floridus ‘Athens’

– a yellowish white blooming selection favored for its extremely sweet
fragrance.

July 18, 2010

Clethra Attracts Hummingbirds and Butterflies to the Garden in Summer

Filed under: alnifolia, Butterfly, Clethra, Hummingbird, native, pepper bush, ruby, spice, summer, Sweet — shadygardens @ 1:18 pm

If you’re lucky enough to have a moist spot in your garden, consider Clethra alnifolia. Clethra is also known as Summer Sweet or Sweet Pepper Bush.

Blooming in the middle of the hot summer is enough reason to name it Summer Sweet, but I think that common name derives from either the sweet fragrance or the sweetness of the nectar. Butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators love it as much as you will, and they’ll appreciate you for planting it in your garden.

Once the blooms fade, dark black seeds are visible on the tips of the stems, hence the other common name Sweet Pepper Bush.

There’s a Clethra suitable for just about every garden, since a variety of types are available.

  • Ruby Spice has rosey pink blooms on a large growing shrub up to 10 feet tall.
  • Hummingbird has white blooms on a more compact plant around 3 feet tall. This is the one seen growing around Hummingbird Lake at Callaway Gardens.
  • Sixteen Candles 6 inch long white flowers on a tidy shrub about 4 feet tall.


All Clethra varieties are very fragrant, reminding me of fresh honey.


Clethra is easy to grow, but does need regular water. Perfect around a pond or stream, but you can grow it right in your garden as long as you can water it weekly.


Clethra grows well anywhere in USDA Zones 4-9.


An added bonus is that Clethra displays lovely yellow foliage in fall! 


For Clethra plants by mail, go to Shady Gardens Nursery.

January 30, 2008

You Can Plant in Winter!

February is a great time for planting here in Georgia! Shrubs and trees planted before the arrival of hot weather have a much better chance of surviving the drought. I’m afraid it’s time we all adjust our gardens for the return of the drought each year.

Recently our garden was certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. We are very proud of that, because preserving our environment for wildlife and our children is very important to my family and me.

Not only is preserving wildlife and native plant species important from an environmental standpoint, but native plants are easier to grow, since they are able to thrive in our climate!

In addition to being easy to grow, many of our Native American Species offer other advantages over the imported counterpart.

Consider American Euonymus with the unusual red fruits instead of the more common Euonymus that is invasive. The fruit resembles a hard strawberry until the capsule bursts open to reveal bright orange seeds—food for the birds! (See the photo above.)

American Native Azaleas perfume the garden with a lovely fragrance, while Asian Azaleas have no fragrance at all! And what could be more beautiful than a native azalea in full bloom?

Nothing smells sweeter than the banana-pineapple scented blooms of the native Sweetshrub, Calycanthus floridus.

The bright red blooms of our American native honeysuckle vine, Lonicera sempervirens, will attract whole families of hummingbirds, yet won’t take over and pop up all over the community as does the very aggressive Japanese honeysuckle.

So as you add new plants to your garden during this great planting time, seek out some of these rare native specimens, and don’t be afraid to plant them now, to give them a headstart before summer! And check back soon for suggestions on how you can improve your garden to help protect your local wildlife.

November 11, 2007

Plant of the Week November 4, 2007

Filed under: garnet, henry's, Itea, merlot, native, native plant, shrub, Spire, Sweet, Sweetspire, Virginia, virginica — shadygardens @ 7:03 pm

Itea Virginica is an American Native Plant that is spectacular in all seasons! Spring brings fragrant blooms that attract pollinators, summer produces lovely leaf and stem texture with some burgundy red colorations, and fall sets the plant on fire with brilliant red to burgundy foliage that can be seen from great distances. In winter, Itea is evergreen in most climates, but if it does lose most of its leaves, the burgundy stems are very attractive as well. Itea is available in both larger growing and dwarf varieties, so it can fit in any garden! ‘Merlot’ is a very nice compact form, while ‘Henry’s Garnet’ is great if you have the space for a larger growing shrub. Whichever you choose, you’ll be adding a spectacular feature to your garden with Itea Virginica. For more information on this plant, go to www.shadygardens.biz.

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