Virtues: This flowering shrub has a nicely rounded habit and it’s a good size for a number of situations, including a foundation planting, a smaller garden or a mixed border. (It tops out at about 5 feet tall and wide.) Its profuse bristly spring flowers have a honey-like fragrance. Foliage looks attractive all summer but turns nice shades of red and orange in fall. Great multiple-season shrub.
Common name: ‘Mount Airy’ fothergilla, ‘Mount Airy’ witch alder
Botanical name: Fothergilla ‘Mount Airy’
Flowers: Tiny white individual flowers are held in thick spiky clusters at the end of branches. They look much like bottlebrushes. Bloom time is mid- to late spring, after the shrub begins to leaf out. Highly fragrant.
Foliage: Dark green oval leaves have bluish undersides. Leaves turn bright red and orange in the fall.
Habit: Rounded deciduous shrub to 5 feet tall and wide.
Season: Spring for flowers, fall for foliage.
Origin: Discovered by plantsman Mike Dirr at the Mount Airy Arboretum in Cincinnati. Thought to be a cross between Fothergilla gardenii and F. major, two shrubs native to the southeastern US, or perhaps a selection of just F. major.
Cultivation: Grow in full sun or part shade, in average soil with good drainage. Flowering will be best in full sun. Prefers acidic soil and regular watering, especially in summer heat. Remove suckers (new plants rising from the base) if they appear and you don’t want the shrub to spread. USDA Zones 5–8.
Image courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder.
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Incorporate more fragrant plants into your garden with Fragrant Designs, a Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide, or Ann Lovejoy’s Fragrance in Bloom: The Scented Garden Throughout the Year.