While red is a favourite foliage colour in fall brilliant burnished yellows can be easily as dramatic. Here is Clethra alnifolia ‘Sixteen Candles’. Sixteen Candles is a newer cultivar of the native summersweet shrub. A smaller selection, it reaches 3 to 5 feet tall. In summer, ‘Sixteen Candles’ is topped with aromatic, spiky, white blooms (hence the candle designation) for 4 to 6 weeks. In fall, the leaves turn an attractive golden yellow.
Sixteen Candles, like all summersweet, is a woodland native. It loves moist soils and shade but mine are in full sun and do just fine. They do sucker so if you have enriched soil be prepared for them to expand, sometimes aggressively. I find however that the runners are close to the surface and are quite easily pulled up and cut so you can easily keep this shrub within bounds. The runners root easily so you can also dig them up and plant ‘freebies’ elsewhere in your garden.
Summersweet is said to be deer tolerant however I have another cultivar, ‘Pink Spires’, in our woodland garden and the tender tops seem to get grazed every year. Luckily summersweet blooms on new wood so this does not really deter from either blooms or of course, fall colour.
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