1999 Theodore Klein Plant Award Winner
by Winston C. Dunwell
Clethra alnifolia 'Hummingbird' pp 8984 - Hummingbird Summersweet
Clethra alnifolia is a native plant in Kentucky. Hummingbird Clethra was selected by the late Fred Galle, a great plantsman and author of two excellent books, one on Hollies and the other on Azaleas, and plantsman/nurseryman Rich Fiest of Burlington, KY. It was planted near Hummingbird Lake in Callaway Gardens. This plant does become a large shrub, 20-30 feet tall, that spreads by rhizomes. Mike Dirr calls the result "large colonies". Covered with white brush-type blooms from a young age this plant puts on a good show in the summer garden, but may be late in the Spring Garden Center sales season. The flowers put on a long lasting show, frequently continuing to have aesthetic appeal into fall. The foliage color is a dark green and has a yellow fall color. In spite of being selected in Georgia this cultivar has proven to be hardy to Maine and Minnesota. Clethra alnifolia is native to wet areas, but tolerates almost any conditions in Kentucky. There have been reports of yellowing of the foliage on disturbed clay soils that may require some fertility and soil acidity adjustments, but even in those difficult sites it does survive and bloom. This plant has also been selected for the 1994 Pennsylvania Horticulture Society Gold Medal and was a 1993 Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association Plant Selection.