Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Another Native Treasure
Clethra alnifoila has much to recommend its placement in the garden. The shiny dark green leaves create a positive impression when viewed from a distance or close up. Drought caused this plant to deny water to some of its leaves as a survival strategy. They are now dead brown but usually nothing bothers this plant. Its sweet scent fills the air at great distance from the plant in the presence of a light breeze. Up close the perfume is pleasant while not overpowering. A wide variety of pollinating insects work these flowers but there is always an open bunch for close nose placement.
These pink flowers are not naturally occurring but this cultivar retains all of the other characteristics of the wild plant. Both multiply freely by suckers and new plants are easily moved. One of our hills is covered with wild blueberry bushes. We are working young summer sweet plants into the openings. The blossoms of the blueberries are long past when the clethra flowers. These two plants work well together. Three of the pink flowered runners have been moved to the new garden by the road. The extra moisture retained by the soil there should benefit the new transplants.
The structure of each flower includes 10 protruding stamens. Each is tipped with brown pollen. White flowers usually show brown coloration as they mature and fade. These are brown from day one giving the plant an unwell look. Once one adjusts and realizes the plant is indeed healthy, the plant is a source of pure pleasure. In the spring each flowering stalk remains attached to the plant as a dark grey dead stick. They snap off easily but there are so many of them. It is easy to remember the past season's pleasure as one removes the remains of all of those flower clusters. Then there is the promise of a new seasons bloom to look forward to. Add a pleasant memory of our discovery of this plant and the package is complete.