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Plant of the week: A woody plant that will bloom when everything else is finished

Plant of the week:

Clethra alnifolia 'Crystal ina' (Summersweet )

Why you should plant it

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Many gardeners look for woody plants that will bloom when everything else is finished. This one is a three-bagger: It's a small shrub that lives well in full sun and in shade, it blooms in July/August and it's scented and attracts bees and butterflies. What more could you ask for? Great autumn colour? Well, yes, there's that, too: The dark green, serrated-edge leaves turn a soft gold.

Where to plant it

Plant this one so it has space to sucker about a little. It may be a cultivar, but it hasn't been around long enough to determine if it'll behave (its parents do sucker, but not wildly). 'Crystalina' has survived in places where many other shrubs and trees were devastated last winter. Make sure you dig a hole that's as deep as the root system and wider. Use the local soil (it will put up with almost anything) and add a top layer of compost. It grows from 60 centimetres to over a metre high and wide in Zone 5 and a little bigger where it's warmer.

What it offers

This is a good plant for a hedge and a great plant for eroded areas since the sun/shade demands will change rapidly if you are planting a new area, Beyond the thrill of seeing something bloom in August, the white, scented upward-facing panicles (tons of little flowers on one stem about 10 to 15 centimetres long) will bloom on this year's wood and attract beneficial insects. It doesn't get very large so it would work well in a raised bed or a large container if it was up on chocks during the winter (for drainage). Of the new shrubs this year, it has become a favourite.

Source and cost

Get it for $16 at specialty nurseries such as John's Garden (www.johnsgarden.com) in Uxbridge, Ont. (If you can't find this form, look for 'Hummingbird,' which is also a very good plant.) – Marjorie Harris

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For more plant and garden information, visit www.marjorieharris.com.

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