Summer Sweet – Georama Growers Plant of the Week

August 11, 2013 Case News

Common Name:  Summer Sweet

Botanical Name:  Clethra alnifolia                   


In a recent conversation (actually we were text messaging – I’m so with it!) with a college, she mentioned a few plants that are great for our landscape but were quite underrated and not selected enough. After our discussion I agreed to high light some of them in the Plant of the Week articles. I chose to start with the Clethra, most commonly called the Summer Sweet, because it is such a superb shrub with a lot going for it. It has attractive bottle-brush shaped blossoms, it can tolerate shade or sun, it likes moist soils, it attracts butterflies, is deer proof and it blooms from late July to September. Best of all is its fragrance. When it is in bloom you can smell it from 50 feet away! It is native to Maine and other eastern parts of North America and grows here just as well. It’s a perfect choice for a woodland garden setting, and makes a change from our hydrangeas which are also in bloom at this time of the year. Several great cultivars besides the species Clethra are available; ‘Ruby Spice’, winner of many awards, is the choice for pink, as it keeps its dark-pink colour throughout the season. It grows to about 5’-6’ tall and will spread nicely, ‘Vanilla Spice’ from Proven Winners has a fragrance all its own, and for a smaller version try ‘Sugartina’ – also a Proven Winners selection. Although a bit late to leaf out in spring, Summer Sweet truly has four seasons of interest and is a perfect fit for our Kootenay Gardens.

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