BRUNS plant of the month – July

Clethra alnifolia – Coastal Sweet Pepperbush, Summersweet

Insect magnet with long blooming period

The coastal sweet pepper bush begins to blossom in July. Not only does it have a lovely and insensitive fragrance, it is also a popular food source for bees, bumblebees birds and butterflies. Native to North American (from Maine to Florida), the nectar-containing flowers are even occasionally visited by hummingbirds.

Clethra alnifolia is a true eye-catcher in any garden for months on end. The bushy growth of this deciduous shrub which grows to a height of 2 m has lush, fresh green foliage. The blooming period spans several weeks from July to September, followed by beautiful green fruit with small, spherical capsules which turn dark brown in autumn, hence the name 'Sweet Pepper Bush'. The seeds are people among songbirds in autumn. The leaves put on a display of glowing colour hues from light to golden yellow and golden brown in autumn.

It is not fussy when it comes to choosing a place from sunny to shaded, any spot in the garden will do. It prefers soil that is moist, acidic and rich in humus. Wet areas are also tolerated. This lovely shrub is also hardy, tolerates pruning and easy to care for.

There are also several cultivars available in addition to the original wild species. 'Hummingbird' and 'Sixteen Candles' are very floriferous dwarf varieties that grow slowly and reach both a height and width of 1 m. This makes them ideal for smaller gardens. Even very shaded areas in a garden cannot overshadow its rich abundance of blossoms.

'Pink Spire' and 'Ruby Spice' are similar in growth to the wild species. 'Pink Spire' has robust pink-coloured buds which open in a light shade of pink. The buds and blossoms on 'Ruby Spice' have an even more intense colour which does not fade as strongly upon opening.