I love history and I love plants. I even have a number of books that delve into botanist explorers and their treks to find a new species to bring home to gardens. Need I remind you that what may be new to me or you may not be new to those who have grown up with a certain plant wild in their backyard.
When I first moved from California 10 years ago, I was surprised to find “new” perennials in Oklahoma were old standbys in California and drew little excitement from gardeners in that state. I also quickly learned that 100 degrees in northern California was entirely different than 100 degrees in central Oklahoma.
Therefore, when I research a plant before purchasing, I attempt to find out from where the plant is native. Clues from the Latin name, like japonica or chinensis may point to a country of origin but in large countries like the U.S. and China, many different climates span the continent; the country alone may not be enough information. So then, many times I write of my history with the plant for book history often varies.
A favorite shrub blooming yellow in spring is Kerria japonica. It is not only one of my favorites; Kerria is an Oklahoma Proven plant since 2002. I first admired this shrub in its single flowered form in a neighbor’s yard in Miranda, Calif., I have to use the term shrub freely for it created a relaxed “screen” around her entire back yard! (Oklahomans need not worry of its aggressiveness.)
At the nursery I fell in love with the double-flowered K. Pleniflora, it produces small banana yellow “pom-poms” in abundance early to mid spring, shortly after Forsythia finishes flowering. Yet the trek to Oklahoma helped me see this plant as more than just a spring-flowering shrub.
This plant grows upright, spreading from below the ground, similar to some Spiraea. Pleniflora is commonly available, yet unlike most shrubs, Kerria has bright to medium green stems, that retain their color through the seasons and into maturity (i.e. they do not lose color with age).
Plant Kerria in sun or light shade; Pleniflora grows five feet, eight inches tall, with naturally arching branches. Use its natural form to create a fountain shaped specimen planting rather than shearing this shrub alongside the holly. Prune older branches to the ground if any shaping is needed at all.
Autumn brings bright yellow foliage; position Kerria against a dark board fence or wall to create a beautiful focal point long after the bright yellow leaves have fallen.
LeeAnn Barton has worked with nurseries for more than 20 years. She digs in the dirt in Stillwater. Direct questions to her by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.