Rose glorybower


Brushing past Rose glorybower (Clerodendrum bungei, below), it emits a scent somewhat reminiscent of peanut butter, but more unpleasant. For this reason I have planted Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) immediately beside so that the odor can be cleansed before I resume stomping through the weeds. (In fact, the proximity of the two is purely accidental, but the closeness has become ideal for this purpose. Surely, nothing is harmed by claiming foresight in planning when none was involved.)Clerodendron bungei

The reason that glorybower is mentioned at this late point of the gardening season is that it is in full flower in late October, several months past its typical midsummer blooming period. One item or another flowering out of season is not particularly unusual, and certainly not after a winter that killed too many cold hardy plants and damaged others so that their typical growth cycles were disrupted. While it suffered minimally, glorybower is only marginally hardy in my northwestern Virginia garden, and this begs the question, why was it planted when it’s not cold hardy, and it stinks? And, after dying to the ground each winter, root suckers are likely to emerge anywhere within ten feet. So, why?

Further south, glorybower is reputed to be a bit on the invasive side, and difficult to be rid of, but in this garden it’s only a minor nuisance. Perhaps the overly vigorous mountain mint (below) helps to keep it in bounds, and though neither mint or glorybower is easily discouraged, invading stems of both are easily removed. But, there is a story beyond excusing that this aggressive shrub is not really so bad.Bees swarming on mountain mint

Several years ago I obtained a small twig of a plant from a mail order source, recalling fondly at the time that I had been introduced to the oddly scented shrub by a nursery owner in western Oregon (who, unfortunately went out of business long ago). This small grower introduced several curiosities to me, though this one stands out for obvious reasons. As often happens, my memory of the scent was more pleasant than the current reality, but it is different, and not too difficult to control, so I regret planting it only a little.

Rose glorybower can grow to ten feet in sourthern gardens, but after dying to the ground it is slow to get started in the spring, and individual stems grow straight without branching to three feet. The clumping of stems and large leaves barely disguise the shrub’s spindly habit, but here it is growing sandwiched between a large katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) and wide spreading Vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis), so it’s awkwardness does not stand out. I doubt that the experience of visitors to this garden will be so pleasant that they will be tempted to try one of their own.

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