Nature’s Gift

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir

The Harlequin Glorybower (Clerodendrum trichotomum) is a gift of nature wrapped in the prettiest packaging but with mysterious surprises in store. Right now (mid-late July in Portland, Ore.) it is dressed in white summer blossoms that hummingbirds adore. The flowers wrap the garden in a heavenly scent and encourage deep breathing and lingering in the garden. The leaves when brushed, crushed or torn are reminiscent of peanut butter, thus the common name of peanut butter tree. I love guests, especially kids, to give it a sniff! It never fails to fill them with wonder.

As if fragrance wasn’t enough, the brilliant blue fruit surrounded by red calyxes follow the blossoms in late summer and hold on to the branches for weeks.

Photo courtesy of

When I was up at the Great Plant Picks plant picking meeting earlier in the year (you can read about it in this blog post), Clerodendrum trichotomum was mentioned as a wonderful plant; however, it’s unlikely it will be part of the Great Plant Pick list any time soon because of its tendency to sucker. I’m now finding sprouts all around the tree, which I pull like weeds. It isn’t onerous, but I feel I have to keep an eye on them so they won’t get out of hand.

Cultural bits:

  • Hardy in zones 7-10. (I’ve read that it can be treated as an herbaceous perennial and cut to the ground each winter in cold areas.)
  • Grows 10-20 feet tall and wide and is most often found in shrub form.
  • Native to Japan and China.
  • Plant in full sun to part shade.

My Clerodendrum, which is shaped into a modest-size tree, is even more special because it was a gift from a dear, now departed, nurseryman: Norbert Kinen. A view of the tree greets me every morning from my bedroom window and the scent keeps me company even when the sun has set. I. Love. This. Tree. When our Oregon days are dark and wet, I look forward to when I’ll be able to enjoy the many gifts my Clerodendrum offers me and my garden.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir

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