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Bewitched Again

Waiting in line to check out at the nursery, I was overwhelmed by craving for a plant I’d looked long at, but decided not to buy because I didn’t know where I’d put it.

Japanese spirea, a tough, deciduous shrub native to China, Korea and Japan, adapts to any well-drained soil. For ten years, one I thought was “Little Princess” has grown next to the corner of my front porch: in June, covered with clusters of tiny rose-pink flowers.

At first I sheared it back in July, to encourage reblooming. But it didn’t do that much, so in recent years I’ve been lazier and let it go to seed. Two resulting progeny are a bit close, and need to be moved.

Now I’m not cutting it back, the bush also gets much bigger — six feet across, in fact: it engulfs the whole corner of the porch. All the references I can find for “Little Princess” say it only gets half that big.

It's such a beautiful, easy plant, that I’ve been eyeing varieties with an additional attraction: leaves in other colors besides green — especially the ones with red in spring or fall. The yellow-leafed varieties didn’t attract me, for two reasons: my unfortunate prejudice against yellow, plus the fact that all the yellow-leafed varieties had bright pink flowers. I’ve been learning to appreciate yellow, but combined with pink? No way.

In 2001, breeders achieved yellow foliage with white flowers. They call the plant “White Gold,” but gold is a warm yellow to me, and these leaves are a cool yellow — almost lime. Something about this precise tint broke through my yellow prejudice. It seemed to be glowing with light — and the white flowers the perfect accent, like a sparkle. I was enchanted.

After my experience with “Little Princess,” I wanted to find a spot where it could get bigger than the “two to three feet” the tag predicts. Trickier than I realized, in the heat of my passion. But finally, after mulling over seven different places, I did get it in the ground.

Then I discover that S. japonica is such a good self-seeder that it’s not only naturalized through much of the northeast, southeast and midwest — it also forms dense stands that crowd out natives. And seeds in the soil remain viable for years.

My eye’s got me in trouble again. I’m such a sucker for beauty.

© Copyright 2004 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 2 July 2004

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