When I saw the scraggly thicket along the foundation wall of our new home, I made a mental note that it needed to go. Summersweet (Clethra alnigolia), was planted in the wrong place. This native plant looks lovely along the edge of the property but as a foundation plant, it was a tangled, unruly mass that grew in all directions. I planned to do the deed as soon as spring thaw arrived.
When March rolled around, I waded into the tangle with clippers and began to chop. After 30 minutes, I stepped out and was taken back at what I saw. I had tamed the thicket and liked the look and I decided to keep the clethra as a foundation plant. Bare during the winter months, spring brought green serrated leaves, and two months in late summer brought fragrant and spicy clusters of white racemes that stood upright in 6-inch candles. Bees loved it. Hummingbirds loved it. Butterflies loved it. I love it…
The shrub does sucker and tries hard to grow into that thicket again. I simply don’t allow that. With a sharp bladed shovel, I chop through each sprout to keep the shrub tidy and I make sure I don’t over water as it seems to sucker more in wet soil. Late fall or early spring, I prune out the dead and remove some of the oldest stems at ground level since the plant blooms on new growth.
Today I am enjoying another season of color from our clethra. Autumn brings bright yellow leaves that add some interest to the yard. Yes, I’ll be keeping my clethra.