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It's North America week!
Sugartina® 'Crystalina' Clethra
OK, I made that up. There is no North America Week. But this weekend our good friends in Canada celebrate Canada Day, and next Wednesday is the Fourth of July. It's one big party for most of the continent, so I'm celebrating with a plant native to North America: Clethra alnifolia.
Sugartina® 'Crystalina' Clethra
This is Sugartina┬« 'Crystalina' Clethra, which is smaller than the species. It grows 2.5-3' (that's a little less than a meter in Canada) tall and wide. A dwarf plant like this is a good fit for residential yards.

It has very glossy foliage and dense branching, so it's an appealing little plant even before the fragrant summer flowers appear.

Hardy to USDA Zone 4, it will grow in full sun or part shade and has pretty good deer resistance. Each year I'm reminded of how much I like Clethra when the one next to my deck flowers. The fragrance is delightful, and gives me just one more excuse to sit outside after work rather than cleaning my house.

Summer is sweet.

Botanical names are the preferred way of identifying plants, but some common names just make you feel good. Summersweet is one of them, because summer is something to be savored.

This is especially true in northern climates, where summer is short and the days are long. We try to enjoy every hour of warm temperatures that we can, because we know that they won't last much past that first fall football game.

Summersweet (or Clethra alnifolia) is a summer delight, with intensely fragrant blooms in later summer. The perfume is lovely, especially if you're enjoying a soft summer evening in your yard.

This is a useful plant, too, as it grows in conditions that can be a challenge to other genera. It will tolerate clay and grows quite happily in wet soils, too. It takes a fair amount of shade although flowering might be less abundant in deeper shade.

Those fragrant flowers aren't just for humans to enjoy: butterflies and bees like them, too.

The only downside to Clethra is that they aren't super showy for the one-and-done spring garden center shopper. Folks who don't think beyond May are missing out on some really great plants, so we need to let them know about summersweet and other stars of summer.