Virginia sweetspire - Inaugural garden blogging
Readers of A Lovely Promise complain, justly, about the irregular and infrequent posting here. And when a new post appears, more often than not it's about something grim. Say, what about that "gardening" that the subhead seems to promise?
So here's a resolution intended to brighten up the blog and guarantee a certain amount of posting each week: Monday garden blogging.
The plant in the image above looks exactly as it does in my garden, although the picture was not taken there. It's a selected variety of a native shrub, Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), called 'Henry's Garnet'. The leaves color in late September and stay on the plant through Thanksgiving, blazing especially brightly when backlit by the ever-lower sun. Sweetspire's natural habitat is moist stream banks. Even the wild, unselected forms turn brilliant colors in the fall. Another nursery selection I've grown is called 'Saturnalia', which lives up to its festive name when its leaves turn: each is a different shade of crimson, scarlet, orange, gold, or yellow.
Despite its natural preference for moist, acid soil, sweetspire seems to thrive in a sunny, unsheltered part of my garden in alkaline clay soil, where I provide no extra water except in drought conditions. Each spring I scratch in a little Holly-Tone (an organic fertilizer for acid-loving plants), mulch with chopped-up oak leaves, and that's it.
The long spires of white blooms in late May are pretty, but not as fragrant as advertised, and not reason enough to grow a plant with a somewhat rangy habit that takes up three or four feet in each direction. That reason is the month of November. When things are getting grey and bare all around it, sweetspire glows on. I hope not to need as much cheering-up this November as in others past, but if so, 'Henry's Garnet' can be counted on to help.