Saturday, August 4, 2012
An Unusual Summer Shrub
The Daily DuBrule
Many years ago I was given the gift of a bizarre Caryopteris by my friend Mary. I had no idea it was actually a Caryopteris; it didn't look like it at all, the base of the plant wasn't woody, the leaf had a really odd smell, and when it bloomed, it was fascinating but nothing like any Caryopteris I had ever seen before.
I learned it was Caryopteris divaricata, an herbaceous plant that dies to the ground every fall. In my garden it has lived for over ten years. It's an odd duck. The stems grow 4-5 long and in late August they are topped with tiny bright blue flowers.The stamens curl outward and it is really fun to watch bees work the flowers. You have to place it where you can see it up close or you will miss it. The leaves are green, nothing fancy.
Once I learned about this plant my radar was up when a new variegated variety was introduced to the trade. Caryopteris divaricata 'Snow Fairy' has really clean bright white and green variegated foliage. It is topped by the same funky flowers but I wouldn't care if it never flowered. It is a bit shorter, reaching 2-3' tall by late summer. What amazes me about this plant is that it seems to do equally well in hot burning sun and in partial shade. It brightens up dark spots and lightens the glaring, intense colors of the high summer garden.
One more wonderful thing: the deer don't touch it. I wouldn't eat it either. Once you smell the bizarre scented foliage you will recognize it right away if you brush against it in the garden. Oh, it also laughs at the heat and at dry conditions. A pretty versatile plant if you ask me.