Henry's Garnet Virginia sweetspire is one of my favorite "naturalistic" shrubs because it has multi-season interest and wears well in innumerable garden styles.
In spring, the 6" long, white pendulous flowers dangle all over the shrub like a designer who loves tassels and fringe. Then it looks well-dressed all summer with arching branches and green leaves; wrapping it up with outstanding burgundy attire in the autumn.
Have you noticed that the winter-bare arching red stems add winter interest? I have and used that feature to advantage. At my old house in town, I planted Henry's Garnet right next to a yellow-painted curb - this sweetspire colonized the area and the red stems popped out against that yellow, the pine-straw, and the dwarf evergreen backdrop. (I did add loads of compost to that curb-side bed, so this woodland/waterway native was, indeed, very happy with the soils.)
Regarding gardens uses, its fits in as well in a naturalistic shrub/woods setting, or along a body of water, or dotted along a dry creek bed, as it does when colonizing a modern suburban home or a grand sweeping estate yard, as it fit in colonizing my curbside downtown. Which is to say, very well.
We do like a good awards ceremony, so here's a badge on Henry Garnet's chest: it received a Gold Medal from the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society.
Henry's Garnet Virginia sweetspire, Virginia-willow
USDA Hardiness Zones
flowering shrub, deciduous
- Spring: green
- Summer: medium green
- Fall: burgundy
Fall Leaf Color Quality
Soil Moisture Requirements
average garden, moist or wet soils (it grows streamside in the wild)
Soil pH Requirements
acid to neutral
sun, part shade, shade
To Make It Thrive
Sweetspires prefer acid soils; avoid high pH (alkaline) conditions or chlorosis and general decline will cause you disappointment.
This species prefers moist/wet soils, however, Henry's Garnet is more drought tolerant than expected - it is commonly planted in neighborhoods with compacted soils. However, it will do better with with supplemental irrigation. In modern landscapes, with these back-filled soils that are low in organic matter, work compost into the soils and your Henry's Garnet will be happier. Be especially sure to mulch it to help keep the soil moist.