Wasps’ nest over the water
Unique British sweet pea - also available in the US

Powerhouse Plant For All Seasons: Clethra 'Ruby Spice'

Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice' in flower and in fall color. Images ©GardenPhotos.comPowerhouse Plants, Plants For All Seasons, are individual varieties which provide color and interest for at least two seasons of the year and not just a fleeting flush of flowers followed by months of dull foliage. I feature over five hundred of them in my latest book, Powerhouse Plants, and every month in Gardeners' World, Britain’s top-selling garden magazine (and also available in the US) I focus on one very special Plant For All Seasons, highlighting three features which bring color to the garden at different times of the year. This month, in the magazine, I feature Hypericum 'Albury Purple'.

And every month here on my Transatlantic Gardener blog I bring you details of another, this month it’s Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’ (click to enlarge), winner of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

‘Ruby Spice’ has two special features – three, if you count the fragrance. At about this time of year, the upright spikes of flowers are opening at the shoot tips and in the leaf joints of the upper foliage. Set against deep green foliage and deep rose in colour, they don’t fade as the flowers of older pink varieties do and they also feature a heavy sweet fragrance.

Then, in the fall, after the flowers have gone, the foliage turns bright buttery yellow to create an entirely different feature.

‘Ruby Spice’ is a very manageable plant, reaching just 6ft/1.8m, perhaps a little more, and forms an attractive bush without any pruning. It does, however, need an acid soil although it seems happy in full sun (as long as the soil is not dry) or in light or partial shade. Hardy to USDA zone 4 and RHS zone H5, it can even be grown in a large container of ericaceous (lime-free) potting soil.

This is my fourth monthly piece about Powerhouse Plants, Plants For All Seasons which don’t flare and fade with two weeks of flowers and fifty weeks of boring leaves. Last month I featured Rosa rugosa, and before that Kolkwitzia amabilis Dreamcatcher (‘Maradco’), Actaea rubra and Paeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt’. So when you look at a plant in flower at the nursery or in a catalog, always ask: What else does it do?

Please take a look at Plants For All Seasons in Gardeners' World magazine each month. And check back here for monthly posts about other Powerhouse Plants – the Plants For All Seasons.

You can order my book, Powerhouse Plants in Britain from amazon.co.uk

You can order my book, Powerhouse Plants in North America and the rest of the world from amazon.com

Or you can find out more about the book at the Powerhouse Plants webpage.

Subscribe to Gardeners' World magazine In North America,Gardeners' World magazine is also available in Barnes & Noble and other good bookstores.

Comments

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Ellie Green

I really like your book, graham, and using one plant for colour at two different seasons is a lovely idea. I have been following your series in Gardener's World. But why do we rarely see this clethra you mention in english gardens? Keep up the good work.

Graham Rice

Clethra needs acid soil and so does not thrive in many British gardens. It could, though, be grown in a large container filled with a lime-free soil mix.

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