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Uncommon Shrub With Seasonal Interest

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Heptacodium miconioidesSean P. Bostic, Hunters Branch Farm LLC ©

Heptacodium miconioides
Sean P. Bostic, Hunters Branch Farm LLC ©

Finding a distinctive tree or shrub that brings a stellar display to any fall and winter garden could not be any more rewarding than with the seven-son flower, Heptacodium miconioides. Fragrant flowers, beautiful fruits and showy bark bring out the best in every garden’s design and are conveniently packaged in this specimen.

Buds appear in early summer and are almost forgotten until clusters of seven small flowers cover the entire canopy in fragrant, white petals every September. After the veil of white fades, the flower’s sturdier calyx wraps rounded seeds in vivid colors of cherry red to rose purple.

Winter brings the opportune moment to reveal the beautiful exfoliating bark. Stems as small as ½ inch can have their gray-brown bark peel back to show a lighter, inner surface, most evident in the colder months when the plant is without its deciduous canopy.

Heptacodium miconioides can grow 10- to 20-feet tall and half as wide in fountain-like shrub or single-trunk tree forms, depending on the gardener’s choice and pruning. This moderately fast grower thrives in a range of soils from poor to rich, while preferring not to dry out completely.

Heptacodium miconioidesSean P. Bostic, Hunters Branch Farm LLC ©

Heptacodium miconioides
Sean P. Bostic, Hunters Branch Farm LLC ©

All of these features combine to make this a versatile specimen or complimentary plant with a relatively small footprint for a focus in a somewhat-shaded urban garden or as a standout in a much larger design.

A rare native of eastern China, this plant was introduced to the U.S. by the Arnold Arboretum in 1980 and is popular in New England.

This member of the honeysuckle family is not an aggressive self-propagator, but is easily transplanted from containers.

Find a fine example of this plant in specialized garden centers and the southeast section of the JC Raulston Arboretum in the magnolia and barberry peninsula near the weeping, winged elm.