The incredible, amazing Spicebush – not to be confused with the Spice Girls or G.W. Bush (sic)…it is an ideal small tree (or big shrub) for your yard. Native to northern New Jersey with a range that spans from Maine to Texas, it can take harsh winters and hot summers. It is deer, drought and clay tolerant, grows in full sun or heavy shade and likes wet soil.
The spicebush gets between 6 to 12ft tall with a similar spread. It has a beautiful broad green leaf. It blooms a fragrant yellow flower in March and April making it a nice addition to a yard or garden looking for color throughout the spring and summer. The bush has a drupe (or berry) that attracts birds in the fall. It also attracts the swallowtail butterfly throughout the warmer months. You need both male and female spicebush to get the berries to develop.
If you are looking to create a hedge-like privacy wall, the spicebush is a good option. I see lots and lots of Skip Laurels in North Jersey. I personally don’t love skips. They usually take more maintenance than people expect, and do not do well in shade or wet soil (two things yards everywhere in the greater NYC metro area have). You can shape and prune the spicebush to be the height and width you want for privacy. It isn’t evergreen (the one way skips out perform spicebush…if you like that kinda thing), but spicebush creates a much more interesting and sustainable naturalized border that skip laurels just can't match.
Spicebush is also edible. The fresh leaves can be used to make tea while the twigs can be simmered to do the same thing. Don’t try drying the leaves for uses later. They don’t hold their taste very well that way. As for the berries, they are extremely versatile. They are sweet and savory and can be dried for uses as meat rubs, in marinades, cakes or ice cream. If you decide to harvest the berry, freeze them. They will go bad if stored at room temperature.
The goal is to make this blog a resource for helpful tips and sustainable ideas. I create original content that shows projects in progress and the behind-the-scenes of installation. And, I try to have as much fun as I can doing it.