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Clethra Alnifolia - Hardy Perennial

Author: John Wood

Clethra Alnifolia - Hardy Perennials and Old Fashioned Flowers

Clethra Alnifolia Described.

Clethra Alnifolia - Alder-leaved Clethra; Nat. Ord. Ericaceæ.

A hardy deciduous shrub, and mentioned in connection with herbaceous perennials because of its rich flowers and dwarf habit. It is a native of North America, having been grown in this country for about 250 years; it is not so often met with as it ought to be, though much esteemed. It becomes very productive of flowers when only 2ft. high, but grows somewhat taller when well established; it is more valuable than common from its floriferousness, during late summer to the end of the season.

Let me at once state that its winning point is the delicious scent of its pure white flowers; it is very powerful, and like that of the lilac and alder combined; the racemes are 2in. or 3in. long, and compactly formed of short-stalked flowers less than ½in. across; they are of good substance, and in form resemble the lilac flower minus the tube; the flower stems are somewhat woody, and foliaged to the base of the spike or raceme. The leaves are of varying sizes, oval, lance-shaped, and short-stalked, distinctly veined and slightly wrinkled, sharp but finely toothed, of a dark shining green colour on the upper and a greyish-green on the under side. The whole shrub is somewhat rough to the touch; the habit is bushy and branching, increasing in size from suckers; the numerous twiggy side shoots of the previous year's growth produce the flowers.

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Clethra Alnifolia

It enjoys a light soil and sunny situation, and it may be planted anywhere in the shrubbery or borders as a first-class flowering subject. Its scent loads the air for some distance around, and pleasantly reminds one of spring flowers. Such sweet-smelling flowers are not too plentiful in September, and I know not a better one than this amongst hardy flowers for the late season. Its odour is fine and full; a single sprig now by me proves almost too much for the confinement of a room. This quality is invaluable in small flowers that can be freely cut, which, moreover, as in this case, are otherwise suitable for bouquet work. Propagated by cuttings and division of the suckers, taken when growth has ceased; if put in sandy loam and a warm situation, they will become rooted during the following spring.

Flowering period, August and September.

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