A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet/Sweet Pepperbush)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

There are plenty of reasons to take a stroll in our Shade Border on a hot afternoon in late summer. Most obviously, it is a good place to find some cool, leafy shade, but another reason soon becomes apparent when you detect the delightfully sweet scent of this summer-blooming shrub.

the-plant-2the-plant-1Called summersweet or sweet pepperbush, Clethra alnifolia is native to moist, wooded places in many parts of eastern North America. Its habit of flowering in late summer is unusual because most woodland-dwelling shrubs bloom in spring, before the foliage of the tree canopy overhead has shut out the sunlight.

There is a planting of summersweet that spreads for some distance along the path leading to the Shade Border Arbor from the direction of Wave Hill House. Look for it in the far left foreground of this shot taken looking toward the Shade Border Arbor.the-setting

Growing up to eight feet high and covered with masses of spikes of pure white flowers, it is hard to miss—especially with the fragrance wafting on the air for yards around.close-up

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