One Sweet Clethra

Clethra has long been one of my favorite plants. I’m a sucker for fragrance and few plants pack more olfactory punch than Summer Sweet (Clethra alnifolia). If you’re a subscriber to my blog then you know that I’ve been breeding shrubs for about eight years now. The first plant introduced out of our breeding program was Summer Wine Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius). Since then I’ve introduced two new reblooming Hydrangea called Let’s Dance Moonlight and Let’s Dance Starlight, a compact Hypericum called Sunny Boulevard, Chardonnay Pearls Deutzia, Fine Wine Weigela, Ghost Weigela, and Incrediball Hydrangea. Vanilla Spice™ (Clethra alnifolia ‘Caleb’) is one of our newest introductions and at the moment is only available at wholesale as small liners. If all goes well you will see it at retail in the spring of 2010. Vanilla Spice, like all Clethra, has wonderfully fragrant flowers in late summer. Its foliage is dark, glossy and very attractive. Most remarkably this plant has flowers that are larger than typical. Each flower is roughly 30 to 50% larger than normal.

Vanilla Spice® Clethra

This native beauty is best when planted in a location where you can best enjoy its wonderful fragrance. I like to plant Clethra is large blocks to increase the fragrance potential. Ruby Spice is a special cultivar with reddish-pink flowers, so Vanilla Spice with its white flowers makes a nice companion for this favorite. While white flowers are not as exciting dark pink flowers, I am partial to white flowers. They simply show up better than red in garden, especially in the evening when I am typically in the garden.

Stay tuned, or better yet subscribe to my blog and have it emailed every time I post (Just click here). I will be sharing more new introductions over the next few posts.

Gardening on TV with the Plant Hunter

I just completed a short trip to the East Coast with stops in Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The expedition was both interesting and entertaining. I started out in Rhode Island where I was interviewed for the television show Cultivating Life with Sean Conway. It was the first time I met Sean Conway in person so I was pleased to learn that he was more than just a television personality; he’s also an experienced horticulturist, garden designer and nurseryman. Just like me, Sean had a nursery that specialized in rare and hard to find plants. But unlike me, his nursery became a regular destination for magazine editors, authors and style conscious personalities. And unlike me, Sean became a repeat guest on Martha Stewart Living and NBC’s Today show. I, on the other hand, went on to became a guest on Cultivating Life with Sean Conway.

Being on TV is not new to me. I’ve done numerous television appearances, both locally and nationally. I’ve even appeared all of South Korea’s two television stations, so I can tell you from experience that Cultivating Life is first rate production. Sean and his entire production crew are skilled professionals and it was a pleasure to work with them. In TV Land this is not always the case. During a break, I told Sean about my most memorable television experience. It was a live, 30 minute television show and it did not take long to realize I was in big trouble. Five minutes prior to air the host asked me if I was a Master Gardener. When I responded "No", she touched my shoulder and replied in a low, sympathetic voice “I’m so sorry. Don’t you worry; I won’t mention that on the air.” And then, to make matters worse, about halfway into the show she started calling me Tim Cook. I couldn’t believe it. She continued on and on even while the producer frantically waved a big card board sign reading “His name is Tim Wood!!!” How embarrassing is that?

Anyway – if you want to see a first rate gardening show, check out Cultivating Life with Sean Conway. The show’s not live - it’s taped one year in advance - so you won’t get to see Tim Cook, but if you’re lucky you just might catch Tim Wood.

What's Your favorite Gardening Show? Tell me why.