From Loose Dirt Newsletter/spring 1999
I like bursts. I'll admit frankly to taking great joy from sprays fo flowers shooting out from nowhere. I like to glance out into the garden just to see what shock of blooms will be arching out there, or over there, or look out! right behind me. To my way of thinking, nothing makes a bunch of beloved azaleas look better than a bunch of spireas growing alongside for contrast, for bursts.
No time's better than spring to appreciate the Variety of spireas. Nearly every week brings another's first bloom, and many go on all season.
For a succession of blooms plant these spireas:
S. thunbergii, Baby's Breath, starts the season with a profusion of tiny white flowers all along its arching stems. It's the ariest, finest textured, and longest blooming of the bunch, with at least noticeable flowers for much of the year. And the leaves turn golden in fall, hang on for a while, then drop in favor of new leaves and flowers.
S. prunifolia, Bridal Wreath, blooms next in a clump of stems covered with little, rose-looking flowers. Stiffer stems give this one a decidedly whimsical look, with hundreds of tightly packed blooms on stems to four feet tall. I always think of teenagers with spikey hair and boisterous behavior with I see 'pruni''s jutting stems peeking out from the hedgerow of green quince and privet.
S. vanhouttei, Vanhoutte Spirea, is the classic fountain shaped shrub with flattened flower clusters all along its stems. This is the one we call brida wreath, because its stems bend gracefully, loaded with flower bunches ever couple of inches from heart to ten. It makes a perfect pretend bridal bouquet, spilling from the clutched hand of many a young girl's backyard 'wedding'. Vanhoutte blooms along with and after azaleas, but the flowers persist longer.
For added, nontraditional spireas, try S bumalda Anthony Waterer and Limemound. Both are smaller shrubs that bloom in summer with vivid pink and purple flowers, respectively. 'Limemound' and its sister, 'Goldmound' can grow well in container gardens, too, and their unusual colors will start a conversation every time.
Yes, there are more spireas, but lest my obsession show too much, I'll leave you with this exhortation: Slip in a spirea, whether it's in a mixed shrub bed, a hedgerow, or at the edge of the perennial bed... you'll be glad, for the bursts.