Perhaps this wasn’t my favourite type of flower in the spring, it looking somewhat like a bottlebrush tipped with algae, but I loved the autumn colours of the dwarf witch alder, or dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii) that they’d planted all along the street. Some were arguably a little messy in the spring, with their bare branches jutting everywhere, but they filled out nicely with leaves in the summer, and I liked watching the little sparrows frolicking amongst the branches whilst waiting for my lunch at the carts.
The bottlebrush-like flowers of the dwarf fothergilla have no petals, and the white protrusions are in reality the stamens of the flower. Though I never did sniff them (maybe if I did I’d like them more), they’re reportedly very fragrant, smelling of honey. The fruits of the shrub are small, brown, beaked capsules, small enough to be barely noticeable. Its alternate, simple leaves are very distinctive: they have clear, deeply marked veins, and are rounded, with a gently toothed margin. As a whole, the plant remains low to the ground, attaining a spectacular height of approximately metre.
Native to southeastern U.S.A., the dwarf fothergilla is named after John Fothergill, an English physician who introduced to England multiple species native to North America. Happily for gardeners looking for a pretty hedge, the dwarf fothergilla is easy to grow, with no serious diseases or pest problems. It prefers moist, acidic, and well-drained soils, in full sun or partial shade. Loamy soils work for it, but heavy soils don’t. Propagating the plant can be done by manner of softwood cuttings in the summer or seeds in the autumn or winter, although it can also grow suckers that can form new plants. As with most plants that have a shallow root system, it needs to be watered well in dry weather.
The dwarf fothergilla’s leaves and bark have been used to cure sore throats and muscle aches, but it’s largely grown for ornamental purposes, one that it does pretty well at anyway.