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.