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Vermont Garden Journal: Fothergilla

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Fothergilla gardenii

This southeastern U.S. native shrub was actually brought into cultivation by an English physician in the 18th century, and hence his name associated with it. Like other American flowers, the English grew it, bred it and then reintroduced it back to us. But I'm glad they did.

The fothergilla is a beautiful shrub with multi-season interest and few problems. Depending on the variety, it grows 4 to 10 feet tall and wide. It has attractive white, bottle brush-shaped flowers in spring that smell like honey. This witch hazel relative has handsome summer leaves that turn a magnificent orange, yellow and red color in fall.  'Mt Airy' is the most common variety. It grows 6 to 10 feet tall, is hardy to zone four and needs little care. Smaller varieties, such as 'Blue Shadow', grow only 3 to 6 feet tall and wide. It's hardy to zone five and has powder blue colored leaves.

Some types of fothergilla remind me of our buttonbush or Cephalanthus shrub that I often see growing along the shores of Lake Champlain and along rivers. They have flowers that look like white, round balls with spikes sticking out. There's a new variety of buttonbush called 'Sugarshack' that has these white flowers and bright red fruit in fall.

But I digress. Fothergilla grows best on moist, slightly acidic soil with good drainage in full to part sun. The large growing types make great hedge plants mixed with viburnums and shrub dogwoods. The dwarf types grow well as foundation plants around your house. They also are an excellent alternative to the now banned burning bushes for fall color.

And now for this week's tip, discover the gardens and food of Barcelona, Spain and Provence, France with me this September. I'm leading a VPR trip to this region where we'll visit private and public gardens, farmer's markets, take cooking classes in both locations and enjoy a luxurious fall on the Mediterranean.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about edible ground covers. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Broadcast on Friday, April 25, 2014 at 5:57 p.m. and Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 9:35 a.m.

The Vermont Garden Journal with Charlie Nardozzi is made possible by Gardener's Supply, offering environmental solutions for gardens and landscapes. In Burlington, Williston and

Buttonbush Fothergilla

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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