Entries in fothergilla (4)


Early Spring, 2015

It happens every year, but I greet the arrival of spring with the delight of an infant who has never seen a blossom before. The garden is awakening. I wander along damp mossy paths, smiling at each swelling flower bud and each lime-green leaf that unfurls. The light is gentle, the breeze is energizing, and the air is filled with chirps and chatters and trills and calls. There is a mockingbird in a tree, and his incessant happy song declares the wonders of season. 

Many limbs and branches are still bare, and on a rainy day the land looks as cheerless as any winter day; but not for long, as every morning adds new color to the landscape. Forsythia was late blooming this year, put off by freezes, but at last it opened its cheery yellow bells:

Chaenomeles, or flowering quince, bloomed through the hard freezes and continues to be beautiful:

Corylopsis spicata, called winterhazel, is a plant in the witch hazel family, or Hamamelidaceae. Its clusters of yellow flowers hang on bare branches and glow like little lanterns:Fothergilla is one of my favorite native shrubs. I recently planted several new ones near the base of some river birch trees. This variety is called 'Redneck Nation,' after Fred Nation, the botanist who found it growing in south Alabama. My new shrubs look sparse now, but they will soon grow and be filled with foliage. The fragrant, white bottlebrush blooms are just beginning to open:

My daffodils were a bit disappointing this year. They bloomed just in time to be hit by severe frost, then weeks of rain. They lay low to the ground during most of this time, but bravely stood tall when the sun was shining:

These trilliums grow wild in my woodland garden. The deep maroon petals in the center have not yet opened:

Hepatica nobilis, also called liverwort, is a beautiful woodland wildflower. I planted these next to a path, so I can appreciate its small, delicate blooms:

Another spring wildflower in my woodland garden is Sanguinaria, also called bloodroot. It has taken a long time to become established; the first couple of years I thought it had died! I am glad to see several blooms this year. It is shown on the upper right in this collage of spring bloomers:Clockwise from upper left: Sanguinaria, also called bloodroot; Grape Hyacinths; Pieris japonica, also called andromeda; Camellia 'Taylor's Perfection'; Leucojum aestivum, also called summer snowflake, although it blooms in spring; Magnolia 'Jane.'I am just as pleased with beautiful foliage as I am with flowers. Strawberry begonia and Heucerella 'Alabama Sunrise' are two new additions to my woodland garden: Strawberry begonia is a vigorous ground cover.

Heucerella 'Alabama Sunrise' is a cross between Heuchera and Tierella. Throughout the year, life continues in the decaying crevices of Stump World:

On a fallen log I find a surprisingly beautiful arrangement of lichens, which have flourished in abundant rain:

As day's end approaches, I find these blooms silhouetted against the sky:

The woods still look bare in evening's glow, but tomorrow more buds will open and more color will show. Spring is here!


Fothergilla: A Shrub For Year Round Interest

I was smitten the first time I ever saw fothergilla. I bought it early one summer for its leathery, blue-green leaves. Fothergilla is deciduous, and that fall I was delighted when those leaves turned first to buttery yellow and then through shades of orange, scarlet, and purple.The next spring I experienced the delightful form and honey fragrance of its showy, bottlebrush type flowers.The flowers appear from April to May on branch tips just as new leaves are unfurling. Fothergilla truly is a shrub with multi seasonal interest.

Fothergilla is also called witch-alder, and it is in the same family with witch hazel. It is easy to see the resemblence, especially in the leaf stucture. There are two forms of fothergilla, both native to the Southeast from North Carolina to southern Alabama and into parts of Florida. Fothergilla major grows to about ten feet.The dwarf form is Fothergilla gardeneii, growing to about three feet. There are a number of cultivars available, developed to promote the native's various characteristics. 

Given the right environment, fothergilla is an easy-care plant. It is deer resistant and relatively pest free. It grows well in full sun to partial shade. Both flowering and fall color is better with a bit more sun. Because it blooms in spring on old growth, you should prune right after it finishes blooming. If you prune later than that, you will be cutting off the next season's buds. Generally, it doesn't need much pruning, except to remove unwanted suckers around the base or to remove dead wood.This fothergilla major is growing in my woodland garden. It has a loose, airy form. With more sun it probably would have a denser structure. Fall color is just beginning to show in a few leaves. Growing in hardiness zones 5-9, these shrubs make great additions to the woodland garden and to the shrub border. They make fine specimen plants. They do well in the same environment as rhododendrons and azaleas, and they like moist, well-drained, acidic soil. Their roots should be kept cool, and I add pine straw mulch around the base of mine each spring. Newly planted specimens should be watered weekly, more often in very hot weather.

Fothergilla doesn't get the press it deserves and is under appreciated. When I mention it, many people have never heard of it. It is not always easy to find, but species plants as well as beautiful cultivars are available. It is worth the search.