All things bright and beautiful


Forthergilla Mount Airy

Fothergilla gardenii – dwarf Fothergilla

Fothergillas have assumed their rightful place in American gardens as magnificent shrubs that offer superb flowers and foliage, in both summer and autumn, as well as sun and shade tolerance. They do not have a bad season.

The habit of dwarf fothergilla is significantly variable, from a small, finely twiggy, rounded shrub to a more open, suckering, colonising form. The 1- to 2.5″ long, dark blue-green leaves turn shades of fluorescent yellow, orange and red in autumn, with all colours present in the same leaf. The leaves hold late, and autumn colour is expressed over a long period.

White, fragrant flowers occur in 1- to 2″ long bottle-brush like inflorescences in April and May, before or as the leaves develop. Associate well with Azaleas, flowering at the same time as many.

Much has been written about the adaptability of fothergillas, but the greatest success is guaranteed with acid, moist, organic-laden, well-drained soils. Plants flower and colour best in full sun but respond quite nicely to half shade. Use in shrub borders, perennial borders, groupings, or foundation plantings. Grows 2 to 3′ high and wide; 5 to 6′ high plants are not uncommon.#

Fothergilla major – virtually everything mentioned above can be applied to this species, with the exception that it is larger in all its – 15′ high specimens are known.

(The plant photographed was on sale at the Plant Centre at RHS Wisley and labelled Fothergilla gardenii ‘Mount Airy‘ – Dirr continues-) 

Recent DNA work showed that ‘Mt Airy’, ‘Eastern’ and ‘Red Licorice’ are Fothergilla x intermedia selections and, as such, theoretically intermediate in characteristics.


Mount Airy is vigorous with large flowers, 2″ long by 1.75″ wide, and consistent yellow, orange and red autumn colour, even under mediocre environmental conditions. Heavily textured, rich blue-green leaves with whitish undersides make this a superb selection. This introduction by Michael Dirr from Mt Airy Arboretum, Cincinnati, Ohio, forced others to reconsider the landscape attributes of this beautiful native (US) genus. It is now the standard in the US nursery trade and a staple of American gardens. Grows 5 to 6′ high.

These notes are taken from the American ‘Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs’

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