Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Spicy Yellow Fall

My husband says I live through my nose and there is great truth to that! The garden plants that I am attracted to and those that hold the most memory for me have fragrance. Lavender, Viburnums, Monarda, Star Gazer Lilies, Moon Flower Vine and Lilacs are just a few of the flowering plants I like to have growing around me.

Recently, another small tree was added to the woodland garden near the front porch. It promises to bring even more fragrance into the late winter or early spring garden.

Spicebush or Lindera benzoin. It's now beautifully clocked in it's fall yellow colors.

The twigs, leaves, flowers and berries all have a delicious spicy fragrance. Just crush a leaf to release the scent. It is a host plant for the Spicebush Butterflies larval stage...the Spicebush caterpillar. A rather curious looking creature with wonderful faux eyes! The Spicebush Butterfly is a beautiful visitor that you will be glad has moved into your garden.

Spicebush is a lovely little tree year round. But it really shines twice a year.

In late winter or early spring, small sulphur yellow flowers open up along it's twigs and branches. If you enlarge this photo you can see the buds. I refer to them as the promise of spring!


Then it shines again each fall when it is covered in these beautiful yellow leaves.

Someday this little tree will produce beautiful glossy red berries that are food for about 24 species of birds, including thrushes, catbirds and the red-eyed vireo.



It has a lovely shape and look. It isn't a twiggy tree, but sinuous with horizontal branching that will only get better with age.

Like so many other plants I love, the Spicebush prefers a loamy soil, a bit on the moist side and a tad acidic. (So it will get babied here were we have nearly neutral, dry clay soil!) It has a deep root system that makes it hard to transplant; so site it carefully. An eastern US native, from the Laurel family; it happily grows in zones 4 to 8. Expect it to remain small, around 3 to 10 feet tall in many gardens.

It's too bad so many of our charming native trees are under planted and under appreciated. Because of that, it might be difficult to locate them at a local nursery. I found mine at our botanical garden's annual wildflower fair. You may have to seek out native nurseries on the internet. But, if you live through your nose like I do, it will be worth the effort!

Gail

I am going to visit Frances at Fairgardens. I won't have my computer, but will check in from time to time to say hello to you all! I will be thinking about you as we talk plants, gardens and blogging. I expect to regale you with our adventures. We always have fun together!

54 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this plant! It has been on my list of things to add, but I was concerned it would be too large for my space. I am now reassured it will be ok. Do you have any experience with sweetshrub, calycanthus florida? That is also on my list of fragrant beauties to add.
    Ali in Maine

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  2. What a pretty little tree Gail! I love plants with fragrant blooms. The ones with fragrant foliage are wonderful too, and I love that the fragrance is so much longer lasting than fleeting blooms.

    Our angel's trumpets are safely inside now. In the evening and all night the scent of them carries through the entire house. Angel's trumpet is a good name for them. Besides the size and shape of the blooms, the scent is heavenly!

    Have a wonderful time visiting Frances! I'm sure you will, and I'll be looking forward to hearing about your adventures!

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  3. Hi Gail, well come on over! We are going to have such fun. I love this little tree too, and had confused it with the calycanthus for some reason. The yellow is like sunshine in the woods and I love that butterfly too.

    Frances

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  4. I'd been thinking about this little tree lately as well! I'm glad to see your info on it and wish we could send smells through the computer (although only preselected ones!)
    Have a safe trip and fun at the Faire Garden!

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  5. Thanks Henboggle, Gardengirl, Cindy and Frances,

    Good morning, I am finishing my coffee and toast and heading out the door!

    Henboggle I haven't grown calycanthus but I did see one the other day that tempted me to try it! I do think of them as large shrubs...6 foot or more! But they smell delicious...only get one in bloom so you can be sure it has fragrance, if that is possible!

    See you in a few hours Frances!

    Linda, How lucky to have that delicious smell in the house!

    Cindy, You won't be disappointed with this tree!

    Gail

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  6. I have wanted one of these ever since you posted about it in the spring and I learned about it in school. There is a native nursery called We-Du Natives on I think exit 110 of I40 in North Carolina. Think I'll stop by there sometime when in the area and get one soon as it DOES have great color. Thanks for showing it and the good tip about siting it carefully since I always wind up moving my plants. Urrr! Have a great trip and visit with Frances! Can't wait to hear about it.

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  7. I wonder if it's deer proof...

    It looks great for that yellow fall color and if there is any potential for deer resistance I'm all for it! Have fun visiting Frances. :)

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  8. Hi Gail, I'm like you. Scent is very important and brings as much pleasure as color. I'll have to do some research on this little shrub.
    Marnie

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  9. Gail,
    How wonderful that you are able to visit with Frances! I know the two of you will have a wonderful time. I had just decided earlier this week that we needed a spice bush in our garden. Now, after reading your post, I’m convinced of it.
    -Randy

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  10. Thanks for introducing me to this interesting tree, Gail. I'm always looking for more fragrance in the garden.
    Enjoy your visit with Frances!

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  11. Have a great visit with Frances! I have long admired Spicebush, but its preference for moist soil has made me leery of it. It's such a beautiful yellow.

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  12. You're already on the road, Gail - hope you have a wonderful time with Frances!

    The yellow lindera looks pretty wonderful at Clay & Limestone in spite of wanting to be in a moist, slightly acid woodland - pretty amazing!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  13. Another interesting native I need to add to my wishlist. I love the yellow foliage and the fact that it acts a host plant for caterpillars & feeds the birds is a big bonus. Fragrant foliage makes it a triple threat! Have fun visiting Frances.

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  14. I like to use my nose in the garden too. I just potted up my "Cerveza 'n lime" plectranthus for that very reason, so I could rub the leaves and smell it! As Frances said, your spicebush does look like sunshine in the garden. I agree it's difficult to find native plants, shrubs & trees. I'm not sure why? It seems like those should be the easiest since they are already perfectly adapted to each of our areas. The nurseries get it backwards I think. I'm insanely jealous that you are off on another gardening trip. It will be fantastic I'm sure and I'll be back to see what transpired!!

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  15. The colour of the Spicebush leaves in autumnn is stunning! I'll look forward to seeing it in spring. Like you, fragrant plants are fsvourites in my garden!

    Have a wonderful visit with Frances!!

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  16. What a sweet little tree. I love the vibrant color. Have fun.

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  17. I knew about spicebush's spring flowers and spicy scent, but didn't realize it has such nice fall color. I just recently read about using the fruit in cooking - cannot now remember where I read it, darn it.

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  18. Such a pretty tree! Thanks so much for the great information. Have fun at Fairegarden! Cameron

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  19. It's fun to learn about new understory trees, and this one is new to me, Gail. I love those lemony yellow leaves, and even better that it has a nice fragrance.

    Have a fabulous time with Frances, and tell us all about it!

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  20. I like the idea of having a sweet and spicy section in the garden...my calycanthus-sweet shrub-came with the garden (must be 50 years old or so - never gets over 3 feet here) I bet it would like to snuggle up to a bit of spice. If it's hardy, and available, I'll give it a try.

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  21. Dave, I don't know about deer proof! I will check on it. I wonder if anything is deer proof anymore!

    Marnie, Scent is really important, it can affect how we feel and so I want to surround myself with the best scents in the garden. I hope you can grow it in your garden. The color is outstanding, so is the scent!

    Jamile and Randy, Frances and I are having a nice visit. We are parallel blogging! When you get your spicebush planted let me know!

    Tina, Well, you are so right, Faire Garden is spectacular. We are having a wonderful time! Been to a nursery, looked at plants and love the garden! I don't know anything about the We-Du Nursery but it won't hurt to stop by and see it!

    Gail

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  22. Barbarapc, Hi! I like the idea of a sweet and sour garden! Isn't it amazing that the calycanthus grows so tall here but keeps short where you live! I love nature!

    Kate, The yellow is spectacular! It's in a darker corner of the garden and lights up the spot!

    Balisha, Hello! Vibrant is another good work to describe that yellow. It really is!

    Gail

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  23. Rose, It is a cute little tree and it will add fragrance to the garden. I love the to rub a leaf between my fingers...as I am walking about. We are having a great time! Fair Garden is a delightful garden!

    MMD, You have to look at these plants that need extra care as children! Don't you need a third chld! Frances is a great deal of fun and the garden is incredible!

    Annie, You have me smiling! I do take a little extra care of it! Water mostly! Frances and I are having a great time...we have visited a garden center and tomorrow we dig!

    Gail

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  24. Hey guys, I have to step away from the computer but I do want to comment!

    Warmest,

    Gail

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  25. Glad you arrived safe. I see you 2 are already having a ball. It's a great time of yr. to visit a dear friend. Do let us hear what fun you had. Be safe.

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  26. I've been wanting a spicebush, and I think I know just the place for it. I didn't realize they had such pretty fall color - I was just interested for the butterflies.

    About your trip - be safe and have a wonderful time!

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  27. what a cool tree. I am very scent oriented as well. That's why I have always loved the moonflowers.

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  28. Isn't that a pretty little tree? You will have a great visit! I'll look forward to hearing about it. :-)

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  29. this looks like something i would want to plant. i love that your hubby says you live by your nose.
    hope you have fun with frances.

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  30. Kim, How wonderful that you know exactly where you plan to plant this cutie pie tree! I know you will love it! We are having so much fun;->

    Shady, When I return I shall 'regail' you with stories of our talkathon and gardenathon!

    Marmee, The scent is really lovely, but my husband's nose doesn't work as well as mine so he doesn't appreciate scents! You can find this plant in Fairview at Growild! Have you been there?

    Gail

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  31. Lola, Hi there! We are having a grea time...lots to do and so much to talk about. Fairegarden is abeautiful as the photos! I appreciate your well wishes!

    Kathleen, We must get you to another gardenbloggers garden! You would have a wonderfl time! I feel very lucky to have had all the visiting with bloggers this year..Spring Fling 2009 will be wonderful! I love to rub scented leaves together, too! The plectranthus sure have some great plants..fab colors and wonderful foliage.

    Entangled, You teach me all the time! I would never have thought that spicebush was used in a cullinary fashion...that is wonderful to know! It sure is a fun little tree.

    Pam, A spicebush would be sweet in your new garden! The color is incredible. So are the blooms! Frances and I are having fun...you know we owe our blooming friendship to Spring Fling!

    Cameron, You would love Fairegarden! If you are ever in East Tenn. you ought to visit. We are having a great time, laughing and gardening! Hope your wek is full of delight.

    Gail

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  32. Hi Gail, Thanks so much for coming to visit me. And yes, parallel blogging is great. Next time bring a laptop and we can sit outside while we blog! ;->

    Frances

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  33. I have often wondered what a Spicebush tree looked like. I would love to find one to plant in our garden.

    I can't wait to see your posts about your visit with Frances.

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  34. Frances,

    I so want a laptop and have my eye on a beautiful Apple. It will be fun to blog from the garden.

    I am having a lovely time with you!
    We have a full day planned, my favorite way to spend time.

    Gail

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  35. Lisa,

    We are fortunate that we have two native plant nurseries nearby. Neither mail plants:( or I woulld recommend them. I will search and see if I can find a good place to order them!

    I think I have a few good photos of Fairgarden to share...oh, I do wish you could see the garden in person

    Gail

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  36. That's a real hit you in the eye kind of yellow isn't it? What a great brightener in the garden!

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  37. Enjoy your time with Frances!

    That spice tree looks and sounds great. Like you, I find scent very important in the garden. Those yellow leaves are almost glowing!

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  38. Hi Gail! Will you find this post (I hope!) You've just been nominated for an award... check out the details at "my place." :-)

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  39. VP, It certainly is...then all the leaves fall and you have lovely stems dotted with the future flowers!

    Gail

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  40. Yolanda Elizabet,

    I wish you could have been with us at this quite lovely nursery yesterday. We found a delicious rose, Fragrant Perfection, I think that's the name....A J& P rose. It was a perfect rose scent!

    We are having a good time. Frances is a very good hostess! Her garden is absolutely lovely....you can explore it for hours and continue to find wonderful surprises.

    Gail

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  41. I have a spice bush but it is struggling. It is in my dry area and I think I should move it to a moister place. I wasn't aware that is was fragrant.

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  42. Phillip, If you can't keep it happy and you might lose it, why don't you try to get as much root as possible and move it! I lost one this summer to the drought. I was so sure I had attended to it, but it seems to be gone...maybe there is some life still? I will check in the spring!

    Good luck, Gail

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  43. Lovely spicebush! It is very important to me to use scent in a garden...that's one reason I am so fond of growing herbs. The calycanthus florida is one my favorite bushes, and one I definitely plan to get! My great aunt had one by her front door when I was a child, and it was like entering heaven!

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  44. Tilelady,

    I understand that calycanthus is a very nice scent to have in the garden! I have seen it and even sniffed it at our botanical garden, Cheekwood. I can't wait to see a photo of the new shrub when it is planted.

    Gail

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  45. Fragrance is a very powerful memory trigger. I have many pleasant associations with certain scented plants.
    Your spice bush looks at home already in its dappled spot.

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  46. I agree! Natives are underused and underappreciated! I'm seeking more out for use here at Our Little Acre.

    I'm so jealous that you're getting to visit Frances! You two will have a wonderful time!

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  47. kylee,

    I am always glad to hear that more folks want natives! It is amazing that so few hybridizers are still not looking at the native...but then they have been known to sacrifice scent for bigger flowers!

    Frances is a fantastic hostess and her garden is more then I expected!

    Gail

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  48. Thanks for the info on spicebush. I bought mine at a Native sale and it's doing well and starting to change colors. I will crush a leaf to see about the aroma.

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  49. Gail, That yellow color is dreamy. I was thinking about this living through the nose idea when out this morning trimming the shell gingers. mmm-mmmm the frangrance of the foliage is so yummy it makes the task not really a task. I sure wish this spicebush would be happy here but not so. We do have ths spicebush swallowtails around here so there must be another host plant for them as well. Going up to the next post to see what you brought home from Fairegarden.

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  50. I remember this plant from growing up back home in Ohio. I never really paid that much attention to it but remember my mother taking care of it.

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  51. rosemarie,

    Did it smell good when you crushed the leaf! it is a very nice shrub/tree. It is either depending upon how large it grows! So glad you stopped by for a visit.

    Gail

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  52. meems,

    It would be ever so unhappy in your garden! I wonder what the other host plants are for that lovely butterfly?

    Scent is so closely tied up with our memory and emotions that it would be a difficult sense to completely lose.

    Ahh I imagine the ginger is wonderful in your garden!

    Gail

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  53. Northern Shade,

    You are so right...scent is a big memory enhancer! I have many pleasant garden memories associated with certain scents. I think the little spicebush is happy there!

    gail

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  54. shibazguys,

    Ohio has some great plants. So your mother gardens? My mom didn't like the outdoors at all! She loved air conditioning best..hated to sweat!

    Gail

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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