Saturday, April 24, 2010

Carolina All-Spice Sweetshrub Or Bubbybush

What's in a name? Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) is one of our finest native shrubs. Its waxy, reddish brown flowers emit an enticing fruity fragrance. The 2" wide flowers bloom starting in late April, and sporadically June through August.

Many gardeners in the southern Appalachians (plant hardiness zone 6 -8) call it “bubbybush” or “sweet bubby”. In the 1800's, long before deodorants, women used the fragrant flower as a perfume to mask body odor. They would hide the tough, almost indestructible flowers under their dresses, in their pockets, even pin them on their clothes.

Sweet shrub is easy to grow. Plant in fertile, well-drained garden soil and in sunny to partly shaded landscape. It flowers best in full sun and stay dense and tight. The beautiful deep green leaves measure 5-6" long, ovate, and exhibit a nice yellow fall color and persist into November. The large, 'urn-shaped' fruits mature in October.

The cultivar ‘Athens’ has yellow fragrant flowers. New Asian/American hybrids from the North Carolina State University’s plant breeding program are ‘Hartledge Wine’ (red, non-fragrant flowers) and most recent introduction ‘Venus’ (creamy white, fragrant flowers).

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