Column: Spireas will add extra blooms to a landscape
Adding blooming shrubs into the garden and landscape are a terrific accent to the many green plants, perennials and colorful annuals that fill your yard. Some of these shrubs bloom very early, such as the yellow blooming forsythia. These are followed by the fragrant lilacs. Once they are done blooming, the magnificent spireas begin to bloom. In fact, some of these shrubs are in full bloom at this very moment.
Many will recognize these June bloomers as they are currently covered with white flowers that seem to cascade to the ground like a waterfall. Oftentimes they are growing along the corner of a home or in the corner of a yard. The ones many of us are familiar with is the large bridal wreath spirea or the vanhoutte variety. This shrub is the largest of the selections and it can become a 10- to 12-foot-tall bush with the same width in time. If planting this selection, be sure to allow it plenty of room for it to display its incredible beauty.
Spirea enjoy a bright location that receives a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day. Most prefer full sun while some other selections with perform well in a semi-shaded location. Until they become established, they also prefer a moist location that receives an average of one inch of water per week. They will suffer if left to grow in a hot, dry location for any extended period of time. Once established, they can tolerate a drier condition on occasion. A light layer of compost under their canopy each spring will really allow them to thrive.
These shrubs have come a long way since the day of the old-fashioned spireas that continue to thrive today in our landscapes. Now there are numerous sizes that can adapt to whatever space you have available in the garden. Some are as small as 2 feet by 2 feet and others will grow up to 6 feet in size.
Not only are the sizes variable, but they bloom in colors of white, pink, red and yellow. Their blooms are the main reason people plant them in the landscape, but with all the new varieties they are also grown for some of their great foliage color, both during the summer and the autumn periods.
If you are looking for a spirea that resembles the old-fashioned white blooming type, but do not have the space for one so large, try the "grefsheim." This is similar to the bridal wreath in every way except it only grows to 4 or 5 feet in height and width. You will still get the same cascading effect with the draping branches.
Another white flowering selection is "snowmound." This selection only gets to about 2 to 3 feet high and wide and has a fine, green-blue tint to the foliage. It is more compact and is covered with blooms in late May.
If you are looking for shrubs that bloom in pink, try the ever-changing "goldflame." This selection has foliage that emerges as bronze and then changes to yellow-green as it matures. In the fall the foliage turns to a bright red shade. The pink blooms usually develop in late June for a soft display in the garden. "Crisp leaf" has foliage that emerges as red in the spring that turns green with a crinkly characteristic to the leaves later on. This selection gets about 2 to 3 feet in height and about 4 feet wide and blooms all summer. "Gold mound" has golden foliage, which makes a great backdrop to the pink flower heads dancing above. It also develops a nice orange to red coloring during the autumn season for another wonderful characteristic.
If you are looking for a spirea that is different than the rest, try the ash leaf sem. This selection has a completely different leaf. Its leaves resemble a ferny characteristic that is a lime green with a slight red edge to the leaflets. It creates a dense round form that reaches about 3 to 4 feet in height and width. In July and August, the bush becomes covered in creamy white blooms that form in panicles on the branch ends. These flowers resemble the blooms of the astilbe and will last for weeks before turning brown. Be aware that this selection may sucker from the base, but they are easily removed and that is a slight negative to an otherwise perfect selection for the garden.
If your shrub ever becomes old and leggy with time, simply trim it back severely or to the ground in the spring to allow it to regenerate from the base. All selections can be cut back during the spring except for the bridal wreath and the grefsheim as these only bloom once a year during the spring season on old wood. Cut these types back after they have bloomed so they can develop new growth that will bloom the following year. Also keep in mind that many of the smaller selections can bloom again throughout the season if you remove the old blossom heads.
Spireas are a very hardy choice for our area and are not overly concerned with the soil types in which they grow. Just make sure that they receive plenty of water when establishing and you will have a shrub that will bloom for decades. Next to the potentilla shrubs that bloom all season, no other will perform in the garden with such beauty and grace.