Summersweet, Hummingbird

I am in SE Wisconsin (sometimes Zone 4, sometimes Zone5 depending on what guide I use). Last year I planted a Hummingbird Summersweet. It did wonderfully all year. This year, I thought it had died off over winter as I had seen zero signs of growth - a scratch test of the stems shows dull white and somewhat dried out branches. No signs of green budding, growth, etc up to today. Today, I notice two very tiny and very lonely buds on a branch near the ground. Still no signs of anything else anywhere else on the plant. I'm wondring if it is suffering second season blues, an extremely late grower, or if it is dying off. Whats the best way to tell?
I'm also wondering if its a suitable plant for SE Wisconsin. Last year it was at all the garden centers and nurseries, this year - no one carries it. It says Zone 3-9. The other interesting thing is it says leaves yellow and drop in fall. My leaves were hardy green to the end of fall and didn't yellow or drop until into winter. Maybe its suffering from some off timing??
thanks for any tips!
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Steve,
I have a bunch of Clethra around the yard and every year I think they are dead. They leaf out a good month later than most other woody plants. I'm in zone 7 and mine started leafing out about 3-4 weeks ago, although spring is a couple of weeks behind schedule here. Give it a couple of more weeks and see what happens.
Keith

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In my mild zone it never suffers winter damage but in yours it probably does, though you won't know what needs trimming out until it is well releafed. A general refreshing pruning (it blooms best on newish wood) is usually done in early spring before it leafs out, but removing winter-damaged tips can't be judged till later.
I bought my clethra a couple years back in spring for an enormous discount because the nursery didn't want to keep it around until it leafed out. It is always just about the last thing to regain its leaves, but then it keeps its leaves longer into autumn.
-paghat the ratgirl
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Steve Wrote:

Hi Steve,
I'm in Maryland zone 7 and mine acted that way the first two seasons i the ground. Three quarters of it appeared to die off. I cut the dea stems to the ground after waiting for the really warm weather. I onl had a couple of stems for the first two years and was ver disappointed. This year I was surprised to see lots of new branches. think this shrub is a bit fussy. Too much snow cover and it's no happy. Too little snow cover and it's still not happy. I think i takes a good couple of years to settle in.
Maybe others will come along with more info. New
-- Newt
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my guess is that it was fertilized too late in the season and didn't have time to harden off before fall frosts hit it. that would be one guess. i usually stop fertilizing with slow release granules around july 1st here in central PA. i am a nurseryman that collects and grows many different kinds clethra as well as other unusual material. from my experience, late fertilization. would be the culprit.
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