Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Friday, March 30, 2012

Isn't it Sweet


There is nothing sweeter than the smell of a Sweetshrub on a warm, southern, spring day. Clemson University describes the scent as "fruity often a pineapple, strawberry, melon, banana or bubble gum fragrance". The scent is highly variable from plant to plant sometimes even described as spicy. Those in my garden happen to be amazing. It is very sweet. We still haven't decided exactly which fruit it smells like but it is heavenly. The sweet smell drifts through the woodland garden. The leaves of the sweetshrub are also aromatic. If you run your fingers across the leaves you will detect a spicy aroma. 



Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) is known by many names...Carolina allspice, strawberry bush, spice bush and bubby blossom. The story is that back in the days before deodorant woman would pick these blossoms and stuff them in their bodice of their dress giving rise to the nickname bubby blossom.


Sweetshrub grows naturally as an understory shrub in forests and woodlands in these parts. They enjoy the conditions of native habitats which provide moist, well-drained, loamy soil with dappled shade. The berries are poisonous in large quantities and should not be mistaken for allspice plant used for culinary purposes. The plant is also deer resistant making it an attractive choice in gardens that deer frequent.


When my husband was clearing the land which is now our woodland garden he discovered the Sweetshrub struggling to survive as it was being suffocated by blackberry vines. We have spent the past three years slowly rehabilitating the shrubs to a better shape by letting new suckers grow and then pruning out the older, leggy growth. 


Sweetshrub makes a wonderful foundation plant creating a great backdrop to other perennials and shorter shrubs. Because of its fragrant qualities it is often planted near decks and patios. It is native to the East Coast, found in Pennsylvania all the way to Florida and west to Mississippi. If you live in this region and have the space and proper conditions to grow this plant, I highly recommend it.

Special note: Calycanthus floridus is a protected shrub so it can not be dug up from the woods and transplanted in your garden. However, it does grow easily from seed and plants can be purchased from nurseries. The best time to buy is during spring and summer when the plant is in bloom to ensure you are getting your favorite scent.

14 comments:

  1. This is one I do not have in my garden, nor do I think I have it in my woods. Would like to add it eventually. Great photos!

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  2. It is very sweet. So nice when a native plant offers so much. I can imagine you and your husband have enjoyed watching it flourish since its rescue! Have a great weekend, Karin.

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  3. Yet another shrub that I need to find a place for in my garden.

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  4. I've only seen this bush on blogs, but it sounds like such a great bush. I wish I could smell it!

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  5. I agree sweetshrubs are lovely. Mine have a kind of spicy, musky smell. They are growing into a nice deciduous screen along the property line. It's true that deer don't bother them. I think the native variety is best. I bought a fancy cultivar with bigger blooms that I thought was lovely, until it promptly died in the hot, dry days of summer.

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    1. I have heard that some cultivars are not that fragrant. I think the natives are best too!

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  6. Great info on this sweet little shrub. Maybe I'll put it on my wish list. It looks so nice in your wooded area.

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  7. I have often heard of this plant but have never smelled or viewed the blooms..how wonderful to find it growing and to be able to give it a good home!!

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  8. I dug one of these out of a customer of mines garden path. She was happy to be able to walk down the path. It looks lovely in our garden, been enjoying it for 3 years.

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    1. Glad you were able to rescue it and bonus that you get to enjoy its sweet scent!

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  9. No Sweetshrub up here, but I do remember it in PA. It has a pretty like flower and oh the fragrance.

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  10. I really like how you have cleared away some of the area to allow this wonderful shrub flourish...beautiful! And it seems as if it has paid off...

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  11. The spicy fruit scent is enhanced if a Tea Olive grows nearby: Fruit Salad!

    When I was a child we tied some blooms in the corner of a handkerchief to carry the fragrance with us.

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  12. What a great description on the Sweetshrub. Having this in the garden can indeed bring joy and fill the air with a very welcome smell. A garden you will have that'll be a feast for the senses!

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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