As gardeners start to look forward to what’s new in 2022, there is a new native plant arriving at your garden center that will get you all fizzed up — The Fizzy Mizzy Itea virginica or Virginia Sweetspire.
Although they are named Virginia, they are native to 20 states plus D.C. and have to be among the best of the overlooked natives. Fizzy Mizzy will be the one Virginia Sweetspire or Virginia Willow you will not overlook at the garden center.
In fact, Tim Wood, aka The Plant Hunter, says, “when picking out plants for Proven Winners, there is a lot of thought that goes into the selection... I look for plants that have multiple seasons of interest, that are compact and low maintenance. If it blooms at that garden center, fantastic. Add fragrance and distinctiveness, even better. Fizzy Mizzy checks off a lot of boxes. Yard space is precious and plants have to earn it.”
Proven Winners, known for herbaceous flowers like Supertunia petunias, Superbells calibrachoa and Superbena verbena, has been developing quite an ensemble of shrubs and trees to meet the demands for outstanding plant material across the full spectrum of the landscape. What many may not realize is that the finest in native plant selections have garnered their share of space in the Proven Winners brand.
In the past few days, Sarah Ann Brown, a gardener in Dallas, Texas, was touting to her Instagram followers how the rich fall burgundy colors were developing in her Little Henry Virginia sweetspire, another in the Proven Winners collection. All of these sweetspire fire-up in color that persists long into the season.
While the native Virginia sweetspires reach their peak height between 5 and 8 feet, with branches bending over in an elegant, graceful habit, the Proven Winners varieties Little Henry, Scentlandia and the new Fizzy Mizzy are much shorter at 2 to 3 feet with an equal spread. Fizzy Mizzy is much different though, not only are shrubs packed with what seem to be uncountable flowers, but the blooms are held erect in a most distinctive fashion.
These gorgeous, clump-forming shrubs have other excellent virtues. They are disease and insect resistant and not on Bambi’s menu. You will note that they bring in an assortment of bees and butterflies and unbeknownst to many, the tiny seeds that form are devoured by birds.
Fertile well drained soil is best but they have the uncanny ability to thrive in moist, heavy soils, making them a champion to all. Virginia sweetspires are recommended for zones 5-9 and considered semi-evergreen with temperatures as low as 15 to 20 degrees and deciduous in colder climates. Records have shown them recovering from temperatures as cold as minus 20 degrees.
The ideal location is in a natural area where the plants receive morning sun and afternoon shade. They combine beautifully with late blooming azaleas and look ever so picturesque with most hydrangeas no matter your color.
There are certainly native plants that deserve a place in your landscape, and you’ll find the new Fizzy Mizzy, Scentlandia and Little Henry among the best.
Norman Winter is a horticulturist and national garden speaker. He is a former director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens. Follow him on Facebook at Norman Winter “The Garden Guy.” See more photos and columns by Norman at SavannahNow.com/lifestyle/home-garden/.
If you go
What: December Nights and Holiday Lights
Where: Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, 2 Canebrake Road
When: 6-9 p.m. through Dec. 24. Holiday lights will be hosted as a drive-thru.
Tickets: $25 per family or car; purchase at entrance and Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens gift shop. Proceeds support the staff and garden.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Proven Winners Virginia sweetspire a pollinator magnet, fragrant air