There is a shrub that is criminally underused in gardens. It is one of the few native shrubs that truly offers four seasons of interest, grows in sun or shade but is still unknown to many gardeners. Perhaps the name is offputting, Fothergilla gardenii. It sounds like a hairy paternal relative with poor al fresco table manners. (Or perhaps as Bugs Bunny would say, it is the ‘Gilla my dreams*.)
Yet this shrub is anything but crude, quite the opposite. Perhaps it has not had the sharp focus of marketing geniuses to tout its charms, giving it a catchy name and heavy advertising in glossy magazines, followed by ubiquitousness as every home gardener and professional designer uses it ad nauseum. Perhaps you can be the first on your block to have it, ahead of the crowd, cutting edge. Right now, in fall it sings the seasonal song with notes of pink, orange, red and yellow in the Fairegarden.
Here are some fact about Fothergilla gardenii from Mobot:
Common Name: dwarf fothergilla
Zone: 5 to 8
Plant Type: Deciduous shrub
Native Range: Southeastern United States
Height: 1.5 to 3 feet (mine is taller)
Spread: 2 to 4 feet
Bloom Time: April – May Bloom Data
Bloom Color: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, acidic, organically rich soils which have good drainage. (Someone forgot to tell my plants they needed moisture.)Best flowers in full sun. May spread by root suckers to form colonies if suckers are not promptly removed. (I dig the suckers and plant them elsewhere.)
This fothergilla species (sometimes commonly called dwarf fothergilla) is native to the southeastern U.S. It is a compact, slow-growing, deciduous shrub with a dense, mounded, upright-spreading habit which typically grows 2-3′ (less frequently to 4′) tall and as wide. Best ornamental features are its fragrant spring flowers, summer foliage and superior fall color. Features terminal, bottlebrush-like spikes (1-2″ long) of tiny, fragrant, apetulous, ivory white flowers. Flower color comes from the showy stamens (white filaments and yellowish anthers). Flowers appear in spring, usually before the foliage emerges. Rounded to oblong, leathery, dark green leaves (to 2.5″ long) turn varying shades of red, orange and yellow in fall.
No serious insect or disease problems.
Group or mass in shrub borders, foundation plantings or native plantings. Hedges. Mixes easily with rhododendrons which generally share the same soil requirements.
Please consider Fothergilla gardenii the next time you are searching for the perfect shrub. Your garden will thank you. The shrub growing here in the Fairegarden is the species. It gets slightly taller than I would wish, so is pruned every three years or so to maintain the maximum height in the images, about four feet. I don’t want it to block the view of the shed. (The lovely copper rain cups were a giveaway prize that we won, offered by sweet Dee of Red Dirt Ramblings. We think of her while admiring them hanging on the corner of the shed. Thanks again, Dee!)
*Gorilla My Dreams is a 1947 Warner Brothers Looney Tunes theatrical animated short, released in 1948, starring Bugs Bunny. The story is a parody of the many ‘jungle’ movies that were prominent in the 1930s and 40s, including the Tarzan movies. The title is a play on the expression “Girl o’ My Dreams”. The short featured Gruesome Gorilla, who reappeared as a boss in Bugs Bunny and Taz Time Busters. The cartoon was remade in 1959 as Apes of Wrath.
To see the cartoon, click here.