I am enthralled by various sweetshrubs (Calycanthus floridus), though my appreciation in the garden is limited by a nose that has never fully functioned except for the most obvious scents. Also, I admit that the flowers are not showy in the manner that visitors or passersby on the road out front would stop to take notice. But, not every flower must be so conspicuous.
The common sweetshrub (above) is an open branched shrub that adapts to sun or shade, bone dry soils or ones that are a bit moist. One in a near swamp survives, though barely, so I will not push that limit again. Recent plantings have been in drier circumstances, though perhaps dry shade could also prove to be problematic.
The yellow flowered ‘Athens’ (above) flowers a week to ten days later than red flowered sweetshrubs, though this could be because it is in deeper shade, where it still blooms dependably. ‘Athens’ also grows with an open branched habit, so these are not the best choices for the formal planting out front, but with an attractive scent sweetshrubs should not be relegated to the back where they are seldom enjoyed. Flowers stick around for several weeks, and for the best part of the spring through mid autumn these are just sturdy, green shrubs.
Two ‘Hartlage Wine’ (Calycanthus raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’, above) are more upright, with a fuller habit, and the red flowers are much larger. This is a sweetshrub that it likely to appeal more to the masses, and blooms might even be seen from the street.
‘Venus’ (above), the most recently planted sweetshrub, is notable for its large white flowers with purple centers. It is the latest to flower in this garden, and another exceptional choice, not that there’s any possibility of any unsatisfactory selection.