Tag Archives: Clethra

Come In and Have a Catchup!

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I’m sure we’ve all been lapping up this late summer weather. I certainly have! I’ve been “busy” walking round the “Estate”, appreciating and taking stock. There’s not too much of great urgency to do – just “pottering” – so it’s a good time of year, at the end of the summer, when things are settling down for the winter nap, to review the good and bad points, and take notes for next year.

The “Grass garden” this year, has had an explosion of growth and colour, but I fear that the grasses may be getting a bit crowded out, in the process. So that has been earmarked for a bit of readjustment next spring. I don’t want to tackle that now. I want to be able to appreciate the grasses and seed heads, in all their winter beauty.

The day’s task, however, were my two Fothergillas, that had recently been moved. They seem to be struggling. Fothergilla major is obviously in a far too dry and shady position, while its smaller, blue-leaved cousin is positively sulking. So out went the Viburnum opulus, with such a viburnum beetle problem, that its leaves were like cobwebs by summertime. No flowers, means no fruit and, as for autumn colour? Well, you need leaves for that! The Fothergilla was more deserving of its more open position. So we shall see how it fares, with a bit more sun and water. No more droopy leaves!
The truculent Fothergilla major “Blue Mist” is a much smaller specimen, growing only to 2-3 ft high, with beautiful glaucous leaves. They both have lovely scented bottle brush flowers in springtime. The solution? I have another lovely scented shrub growing in a pot, Clethra alnifolia “Hummingbird”. My thinking is that, as it grows taller than the Fothergilla, it may be better suited to its inclusion in the Scented shrub border, where it would fill a gap in the flowering calendar. The Fothergilla could then be rehoused in the, now vacant, blue glazed pot, which would set of this plant’s lovely blue foliage beautifully. It would also allow it to be grown in the ericaceous compost it prefers. So it would have to snap out of its sulk, now that it’s been pandered to!

Fothergilla major "Blue Mist"

Fothergilla major “Blue Mist”

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Looks better already!

I also planted up one of my latest acquisitions – Daphne x Napolitana “Meon”, a dwarf variety for a small gap in the scented shrub border, again with the plan of flowering at this “in-between” period between summer and autumn’s fragrant flowers. At a final height of only 18 inches, with tiny rose-pink flowers, it may be small in stature, but not in perfume. The other purchase, the Caryopteris, with its lovely aromatic glaucous leaves, and dark indigo blue flowers, is destined for the front garden, as it will need more sun, but as yet, it’s final position is undecided. That will need to wait for a bit longer.

Caryopteris x clandonensis "Dark Knight"

Caryopteris x clandonensis “Dark Knight”

That was the some total of the day’s “tweaking”. The rest of the day was spent appreciating, so let me share with you!

If you took notice of the archway, (at the start of the post) you can see it’s smothered in two different climbers – Clematis flammula and Lonicera belgica. I’ve been watching patiently for the clematis to start flowering, hoping it would coincide with the honeysuckle’s second flush. And it has come off! Just!

Clematis flammula

Clematis flammula

This is a very vigorous group 3 clematis, which means it flowers on new wood, so is easy to prune, by cutting hard back to about a foot from the ground, and it will make all this growth, in one season. It’s smothered in tiny white, starry flowers at this time, that smell of hawthorn. In fact, the arch, for a split second, can become a time tunnel, transporting you back in time to early summer!

Lonicera belgica

Lonicera belgica

This has to be one of the best summer scents in the garden! Lonicera belgica may be “commonplace” in our gardens, but its gorgeous scent, and unusual flowers with their lovely colouring, makes it seem exotic in my eyes. Sadly for us, its main flush of flowering early in the summer, amounts to nothing. The buds can cover the climber, but as they open they wither and die off. I believe it to be an infestation problem rather than cultural, as it’s second flush at this time is magnificent! I haven’t yet identified the culprit, but it’s found every one of the four plants we have in various places in the garden. Never mind, we can enjoy it now!

Clethra alnifolia "Humminbird"

Clethra alnifolia “Humminbird”

The recently transplanted Clethra is a lovely shrub, not often seen, I believe. This variety is a more compact variety than the species, growing to 3-4 ft. and it has the advantage of coping well with our shady conditions. More importantly, it flowers at a time when few other scented shrubs are in flower. It’s also known as the “Sweet pepper bush” and has sweetly scented bottle brush flowers, during August. It has gone over now, but its autumn golden yellow colouring is just starting.

I must say, that what our scented shrubs lack flower wise, at this time of year, is made up for with some magnificent autumn colouring.

If the Clethra was unknown to you, what about this?

Zenobia pulverulenta "Blue Skies"

Zenobia pulverulenta “Blue Skies”

What a mouthful that is! This is a beautiful shrub, with pure white new stems and glaucous, oval leaves. If you look closely, you should make out the small bell-shaped, pure white flowers, that look like lily-of-the-valley. They don’t smell like them though, having instead, an aniseed perfume. It is actually an ericaceous shrub, semi-evergreen, that grows to about 5-6ft. but is happy in a pot. And this blue glazed pot, I think, is perfect!

Well, I think that’s it for now. It’s now time to switch our attentions to the beauty of autumn, that lies round the corner.

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