Entries in Virginia Sweetspire (2)


Best of the Rest: 2018 Garden Images

Every year I like to go back through all the year's garden pictures and choose unused photos from each month. I select only shots I made of my own garden. These are images that never made it into a blog post, for various reasons, but perhaps deserve a look. At the least, they provide a review of the year. So to celebrate the passing of 2018, and to look forward to a new garden year, here are the best of the rest: 2018. 

January:I tucked sprays of Arizona cypress around ornamental kale in a pot to make an attractive winter arrangement.

February:The small yellow blooms in the photo on the left are forsythia, and the white flowers on the right are from the Serviceberry tree (Amelanchier, also called Juneberry. Its edible berries ripen in June and taste a bit like blueberries. But the birds love them, so I let them have them.

March: A fern's newly emerging fiddlehead; ferns have an important presence throughout my garden.

Here is a March view of the walk in front of our house.

April:Left: Trillium in front of autumn fern. Right: Enkianthus blooms.

May:Left: Turkey tail fungus with resurrection fern. Right: Virginia sweetspire.

June:A large gardenia shrub on the edge of the woodland garden fills the area with sweet fragrance each June.

July:A beautiful heucherella and its bloom.

August: Bugs love the hot, stressed-out conditions of August!

September:Garlic chives, on the left, and spider lilies, on the right, both flourish in September.

In spring 2018, we had to remove the beautiful Japanese maple that grew in front of the house, as ambrosia beetles had killed it. In September we replaced it with 'Rising Sun' redbud, seen here on the left.

October:A female American robin enjoyed this birdbath. Her mate was nearby in the grass.

November:The tree in the background with the heart-shaped golden fall foliage is a native redbud.

December:Once upon a time this Cryptomeria japonica was a living Christmas tree. After the holidays, we planted it in the front yard. Look at it now!

Did you have a favorite month? Happy gardening in 2019! 





Virginia Sweetspire, A Great Native Shrub

I am very pleased with Virginia Sweetspire, Itea virginica. Several of these shrubs grow on the outer edge of my woodland garden, farthest from the house. I almost forgot about them this year, until their abundant 4 inch long tassels of white blooms caught my attention.

How beautiful, I thought as I examined the mildly fragrant racemes of flowers. I have done little for these shrubs since I planted them a couple years ago. How nice that they rewarded me without any fuss. 

As lovely as the late spring to early summer flowers are, the most outstanding feature of this deciduous shrub is its fabulous autumn foliage. The names of several popular cultivars reflect that attribute, including 'Henry's Garnet' and 'Merlot.'Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet' grows in my woodland garden. I love the gorgeous colors of its fall foliage.

Itea virginica is native to the eastern part of North America, and it reminds me of how little maintenance is required of plants that are indigenous to a region. In the wild, Virginia Sweetspire naturalizes easily. It has an erect form with arching branches. My young Virginia Sweetspire is about three feet tall.It will spread by root suckers and can form thickets. It is an excellent plant for erosion control. The root-sucking habit is more pronounced in moist soil. If one doesn't want the plant to spread, the suckers can be removed easily.

Growing in planting zones 5 to 9, best color and blooms occur in full sun to light shade. It likes well drained soil rich in humus, but it adapts to clay soil and is tolerant of both wet and dry situations once established. Rootball division is the easiest form of propagation. Depending on the cultivar, Virginia Sweetspire will grow from about 2 to 6 feet tall and wide. For most prolific blooms, fertilize yearly. Pruning may be done for shaping or to control size but otherwise is not necessary. Because it blooms on old wood, or the previous year's growth, any pruning should done right after it blooms. Pruning earlier in the year will remove the flower buds. Of course, dead wood may be removed at any time.

Virginia Sweetspire is a great shrub for the woodland or wildlife garden. The flower nectar attracts butterflies and other pollinating insects, its seeds provide food for birds, and the dense mass of leaves offer cover for wildlife.