variety Hummingbird looks good massed and reaches
about 3 feet tall.
Garden Guy has known of the summersweet or Clethra
alnifolia for over 20 years; when the variety
Hummingbird was selected as a Georgia Gold Medal Winner
in 1996. If I may pose the question, however, do you,
'really' know it? Embarrassingly I have to admit, I
I am here
to tell you it is a champion of pollinators. I have been
watching for weeks and witnessing a spectacle of nature.
There are more bee and wasp species than I knew existed
buzzing around in a state of pure ecstasy.
notice, that is not all, hummingbirds will feast as will
the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, American Lady, Gray
Hairstreak, Red-banded Hairstreak, Silver-spotted
Skippers, and more. The native clethra or summersweet is
an entomological treasure chest.
bottlebrush-like spikes are an exotic beauty as well. It
looks as though it was created to be partnered with
Virginia sweetspire, but forms an idyllic combination
with purple-leafed plants like Purple Pixie or Purple
Daydream loropetalum. Youíll also love it with white
blooms of the summersweet yield a fragrance as luring as
the finest of perfumes. Growing a bold drift or sweep of
these shrubs around the porch patio or deck will give
the family, and all who visit, an olfactory experience
in which memories will be created. Can you imagine a
native plant offering so much in June and July?
native would make a fine choice for your landscape, but
there are reasons others have been made for the market
place. Hummingbird was selected for its uniformity and
compactness. It reaches 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It
does sucker some but is easy to manage in allotted
space. Sixteen Candles is also compact and holds blooms
Spice is taller reaching 3 to 6 feet tall producing
rose-pink blooms. It is known to sucker but is densely
branched and makes a nice hedge. Vanilla Spice is large
in habit and bloom. The plants will reach 6 feet tall
and as wide with blooms reportedly twice as large as
are tolerant of wet soil and resist browsing by deer.
They offer good yellow fall leaf color before dropping
leaves and the remaining seed capsules or fruit are
eaten by a variety of birds. This gorgeous clump-forming
native shrub is disease and insect resistant.
mentioned, it can spread or form additional clumps by
spreading underground stems. It is not hard to keep in
bounds or maintained. Pruning will help you develop the
desired bushy or mounding shrub look versus a thicket or
briar appearance. They bloom on new wood so losing
blooms to late frost is typically not an issue.
location would be in a naturalistic area where they
receive morning sun and afternoon shade or high shifting
filtered light. The clethra is a light feeder, the best
time to fertilize is late winter with a slow-release
balanced fertilizer spread evenly under mature plants.
its native stature and compatibility over a large
geographic area, plus all of the named selections,
simply walking into your favorite garden center and
picking up five may be a challenge. To be honest
container-grown, nursery-stock can be planted just about
any time, so take advantage and buy them when you see
them for sale. Once you start growing the clethra or
summersweet, youíll never want to be without some in