Stillwater News Press

Garden

June 21, 2014

In the Garden 06-22-14

Make room for Spiraea

I was reading up on the native grass Sporobulus when I noticed an entry for Spiraea on the opposite page.

It began “Unless your garden sits in a cave or the middle of the ocean, you probably have room for a Spiraea.” Here was a gardener after my own heart—always room for one Spiraea.

The species and varieties of Spiraea are as greatly varied as are the forms and flowers of this widely planted shrub. Many don’t know it by name, but a number of varieties are blooming now in different shades of pink.

As a die-hard gardener (one who relies on plants that are not finicky but hard to kill) I frequently recommend Spiraea for three reasons:  it is tough, it is pretty and it is easy to care for.

Spring begins with an old but somewhat obscure Spiraea prunifolia. I was blessed to have this plant at my California home.

The twiggy, upright, unbranched growth would unexpectedly bloom with tiny white rosebuds. Enveloping the stems the flowers gave way to small green leaves that generated myriad of color when fall arrived.

Next to bloom, is a Spiraea, commonly known as Bridal veil. S. vanhouttii needs some room to spread. The arching branches often reach six to eight feet to create a fountain appearance. Clustered blooms of small, white flowers line the tops of the branches like frosting.

Spiraea japonica is the most commonly known. With pink flowers, this species is last to bloom. Varietal differences include size, leaf and bloom color though all have a typical shrub habit. ‘Anthony Waterer’ is in my yard now, with hot pink blooms to five inches in diameter. The contrast against the elongated, dark green leaves is striking!

Three varieties known for their foliage color are ‘Goldflame,’ ‘Limemound’ and the Oklahoma Proven ‘Magic Carpet.’ Limemound’s foliage begins unfolding yellow, maturing to lime-green. ‘Goldflame’ and ‘Magic Carpet’ emerge in shades of red, gold and orange – a trait that persists as the plants continue through the season and into the fall. The blossoms of these three are a flat pink, often taking a backseat to the foliage.

Maintaining Spiraea is as simple as a operating a set of hedge shears or hand pruners. I like to cut the japonica varieties back to 12 or 18 inches after the spring bloom. After four weeks, the shrubs return to foliage; the regular pruning helps me keep the Spiraea at the height I prefer.

Low to no care, tolerance to sun and good looking blooms – do you have room for a Spiraea?

LeeAnn Barton has worked with nurseries for more than 20 years. She digs in the dirt in Stillwater. Direct questions to her by emailing leeannbarton@sbcglobal.net.

 

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