Flowers are not expected on two recently planted sweetshrubs (‘Michael Lindsey’ and ‘Burgundy Spice’), though upon close examination I see the start of flower or growth buds on the dark leafed ‘Burgundy Spice’ (Calycanthus floridus var. purpureus ‘Burgundy Spice’, below). So, there’s hope. I expect that whenever it flowers, the blooms will not stand out so much against the dark background of foliage compared to green leafed types, but most sweetshrubs are not highly ornamental after flowering, and this should be the exception. Unfortunately, ‘Burgundy Spice’ is not yet widely grown, but that must change as more gardeners see it.
In this last week of April, handfuls of sweetshrubs are in various states of flower or bud in the garden, with the timing most dependent upon the variety rather than sun or shade exposure. The earliest to flower is the native species (Calycanthus floridus, below), with three slowly suckering plants growing in shade and fierce root competition between a tulip poplar and swamp maple .
Nearby, the pale yellow flowered ‘Athens’ (below) is just behind, also shaded, but with fewer flowers opened and many more to come over the next week. The flowers of all sweetshrubs are fragrant, though I am handicapped in this regard and barely able to smell a thing, and blooms often persist for several weeks. The proper placement for sweetshrubs is not at the front, where the sprawling habit and open branching structure might not be appropriate, but rather it is best off to the side in a location where the fragrance can be experienced at close range.
Are multiple sweetwshrubs necessary, you ask? Certainly not in every garden, though absolutely yes in this garden where I become enthused and compulsively make small collections of many favorites.
While ‘Burgundy Spice’ has too short a track record to become the undisputed favorite, in recent years the vigorous ‘Hartlage Wine’ (Calycanthus × raulstonii ‘Hartalge Wine’, above) has gained my affection with abundant large blooms and denser branching. I am quite pleased with the large, white flowered ‘Venus’ (below) that was added a year ago, and look forward to seeing blooms of ‘Aphrodite’ through the summer. While sweetshrubs are not ones that attract attention from across the garden, this small collection has become a mid-spring favorite.
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This was a genus that I thought California had a monopoly on. I learned only in the past two years or so that there are other species that are native elsewhere in North America.