Don’t overlook spireas

Beckie Fox

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I’ve written about spireas in this space before, declaring Spiraea thunbergii ‘Fujino Pink’ to be my favourite, but I’ve changed my mind; Glow Girl birchleaf spirea (S. betulifolia Glow Girl) is my new favourite. After all, if you ask any gardener to name her favourite plant, she’ll name whatever is in bloom at the moment, and Glow Girl is in bloom right now, looking crisp and cool with her sunny yellow leaves and white flowers.

Glow Girl Birchleaf spirea
Glow Girl birchleaf spirea (Zone 4) grows to about three feet (90 cm).

I also grow the aptly named S. nipponica ‘Snowmound’, nearly in bloom, and S. japonica Double Play Gold, the last of my spireas to flower, usually late June. Double Play Gold sports bright gold foliage and hot-pink flowers, not my favourite colour combination in shrubs or perennials, but it does light up a back corner where not much else is going on. Breeders have done a lot with Japanese spireas, introducing several compact and colourful cultivars. “There’s something about spirea” describes the attributes of these recent Japanese spirea introductions. 

Often overlooked, hardy spireas are considered ho-hum, probably because they don’t look like much when not in bloom. But they’re good filler shrubs for a wide mixed border and aren’t troubled by pests or fungal problems (at least not in my garden). Unlike many other spring-blooming shrubs, a long season of dainty spirea flowers is possible if you choose different varieties, from the early-blooming Thunbergs to the late Japanese spireas. They’re also easy to prune and benefit from tidying up immediately after blooming. But please, no tight muffin shapes. Most spireas arrange their twiggy branches into graceful, arching vase shapes or loose, low mounds, and you’ll have a better-looking specimen if you honour their inherent growth patterns.

Hardy haskaps

Everyone’s familiar with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, but what about haskaps? They’re super hardy, early-bearing and loaded with Vitamin C. “Meet the haskaps” talks about these oddly shaped blue fruits and the breeding program at the University of Saskatchewan.

A neat trick for planting large containers

I’ve been planting large containers for eons, but it was only this year I came up with a method to plant several plants easily and efficiently in one container. For example, for a container that will hold eight plants, I insert eight empty pots into the fresh potting soil, spacing them evenly. Once I’ve gently firmed the soil up to the rims of the empty pots, I remove them and pop in the container plants in the ready-made holes. Less mess, too.

Planting a container
Empty pots are handy when planting up a large container. Make planting holes using the empty pots, then remove them and insert your plants in the right-sized holes.

Other garden info

• More than 400 plant species, including trees, shrubs, vines, flowers and vegetables, are susceptible to verticillium wilt. Unfortunately, there are no treatments for the fungal disease, but there are ways to prevent or manage it. If you suspect one of your plants is suffering from the wilt or want to learn more about how to prevent it occurring, read “Verticillium wilt: wide-ranging plant pathogen” on Epic Gardening.

• It’s rhubarb season in the garden and in the kitchen. I learned a lot from “18 fun facts about rhubarb” by the Laidback Gardener in Quebec. For example, did you know “rhubarb” means barbarian root and that it belongs to the same plant family as buckwheat, sorrel and knotweed?

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2 thoughts on “Don’t overlook spireas”

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