Spirea redux

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One day in January I pruned the old spirea bush in a way that was alarming to some readers.  You may remember this image from the subsequent dreams it inspired:

pruned spireaFor a while this spring I thought I had truly killed the old plant, but not so.

spirea growth following pruning

Today this spirea is quite focused on growing and not looking dead, which is a great relief.  Still it does seem to me that it rather resembles an ottoman…

But that is doubtless because I just reupholstered a real ottoman –it was yellow– so I am in tune with ottoman forms right now.  (In the course of acquiring my yellow ottoman I also observed that many people who post ads on Craigslist spell the word this way: automan. The one I bought was an ottoman but now I kind of want an automan too because it likely wouldn’t need to be reupholstered and could maybe change the oil in the car.)

I do have another spirea, one that is all in flower, called Spiraea media ‘Snow Storm’ — a pretty good name for it. Unlike the old shrub, which is I believe is called a bridal wreath sort with blooms all along the stems, this one flowers in clumps of bloom, but they are airy and free looking, uninhibited and might be cheerfully talkative and have loopy handwriting.

Spirea media, Snowstorm Spirea

This one is only about two years old while the pruned one is about a hundred years old. Or maybe a thousand. Anyway ‘Snow Storm’ gets cut back lightly after blooming (like a haircut, no trauma), it grows to about four feet tall (that’s twelve teaspoons, end-to-end,  Alberto) and the leaves get all colored up in the fall.

Spirea media "Snow Storm"

The native plants seem quite happy in captivity or at least they don’t run away. Here is the Douglas Iris (or Douglas’ Iris). I like the color and the understated form of the blooms.

Iris douglasiana or Douglas' iris

It’s named for David Douglas, a Scottish botanist sent by the Horticultural Society in London to the Pacific Northwest in 1826. He collected tons of native plants and ultimately introduced over 240 new species to Great Britain, which is why so many Oregon native plants are called Douglas, like the fir tree. Unfortunately Mr. Douglas fell into a pit trap in Hawaii when he was only 35 years old and was killed by a wild bull which somehow fell in as well. Was the bull chasing Mr. Douglas? Was Mr. Douglas trying to domesticate the bull? We will never know…

In my garden the Douglas iris seeded itself one year. Of course I saved some of the seedlings and have used them in new places. After a couple of years they form a large clump. In the early spring I whack back the old leaves and the new ones emerge like a little fountain. (The circle of whack and grow…)

Douglas' iris, Iris douglasiana

Another native plant to make you look at today is small-flowered alumroot  (Heuchera micrantha), apparently something David Douglas overlooked or least didn’t give his name to. (I hope he didn’t step on it.)

Today the ones in my garden are frothing their tall (24 inches) plumes of tiny blooms around like fog.

alumroot, Heuchera micrantha

All of the roses are about to flower, but you likely don’t want to see about to flower so they will wait until next time. Well here’s one.

Jude the Obscure rose bush

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About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in actual plants, Clematis, Pacific Northwest native plants, pruning and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Spirea redux

  1. kininvie says:

    So where’s the clematis Ice Blue then? (Since you tagged your post with it, I imagine it is lurking in the background somewhere?) Or maybe, like the roses, it is about to flower but not yet. I’m very fond of that Snow storm spirea. All my spireas seem to be pink – and it doesn’t suit them.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Kininvie–
      I was saving the Clematis Ice Blue– just for you! I knew you would miss it… So surprise, here is is, kind of like a bouquet. (Really you would make a good detective.)

      Clematis 'Ice Blue'

      I’m sorry your spireas are all pink. I find if you cut them severely they won’t bloom for a while.

  2. cathywieder says:

    Linnie, I will be much braver when next I try to rein in my spirea. It is getting a little out of hand, and I think that after it stops blooming this spring, I am going to give it a serious hair cut. Thanks for the inspiration (and courage!!)

    • linniew says:

      Hi Cathy
      I was pretty rash last winter, cutting that shrub to the ground like that. I feel lucky that it recovered, because I had no idea. Now I bet you can’t kill them with pruning even if you try.

  3. Lyn says:

    I feel we are spookily in tune, Linnie. I also cut one of my thousand year old Spiraeas to the ground last winter, and it grew into an ottoman (or maybe it is an automan, as it just sits around… no that’s too unkind). I think you are right about the blossoms of “Snow Storm”. I wouldn’t even be surprised it they dotted their ‘i’s with little hearts. The Douglas iris is also very pretty. It reminds me of Iris unguicularis, which is also a whack and grow kind of plant, only the whacking happens in autumn here because it flowers in winter. Um, so that gives me one more day for that job. I think I’d better go outside now.

    • linniew says:

      Oh yes, little hearts on the i’s– I forgot to mention that! I had to look up images of unguicularis, another blue iris and I do see the resemblance. I know you will get it whacked in time Lyn. I will never get over how we are in reverse seasons from one another but clearly we are in tune, as you say.

  4. I am terrible with pruning but do get prettywild with my spiraea. I will have to look for Snow Storm—it’s elegant.

    • linniew says:

      Carolyn I seem to recall that you were one of those who reassured me last winter after I cut that spirea/spiraea. Which brings me to the name. It looks like spirea is the common name and spiraea is the Latin but sometimes Spirea is used for both?

  5. The spiraea looks very healthy; can’t wait to get one myself! (My mum will bring me one the next time she comes over by car, since it was – even by my standards – too large to travel with by public transport.)

    I do prefer the “bridal wreath” types of spiraea, but your snowstorm looks rather attractive as well, and of course the secret clematis makes me want to get one!

    • linniew says:

      I am always impressed with how you carry plants on buses and trains Søren. I have a tiny car that does not even have a back seat –many times I’ve had a big potted plant in the passenger seat with limbs kind of trailing out the side window and over the dog in the hatchback area. It is nice of your mother to help with transport issues of this sort.

      • I can bring a couple of rhododendrons on a plane, take a bagful of lilacs on a coach, but a full spiraea shrub is beyond my means of transport, I fear… Mind you, if I had a car I’d probably start transporting mature oak trees or similar!

  6. Alberto says:

    Great Mr. K spotted you cheating with tags! (so your vengeance is advising him to whack back his pink spireas, do you want him to believe they’re going to flower white then?)
    Well, it seems you have some very nice things flowering! The iris is wonderful, really, I’m going to look for it if I’d come to Oregon, I just hope not to step in any pit trap and if so I just hope there will be no bulls wandering around… Poor Mr Douglas we are laughing at his dead shoulders, it’s not polite.

    Now that I know (finally) how many teaspoons compose one foot, I’d really like to know what an Ottoman is, other than an ancient Turkish. Unless you have old Turkish working for you in your house, but I guess a Philippine waitress would be more up-to-date, dear.

    (now apparently wikipedia says an ottoman is something you lay your feet on… I wonder if you can also store the teaspoons, along with the feet)

    • linniew says:

      ‘Cheating with tags?’ Oh Alberto… Of course I had written about the Ice Blue clematis and then cut it from the post but forgot to cut the tag. (More usually I forget to ADD a tag.) Then when Kininvie got all “where’s the clematis?” about it, I put up a photo in the reply, which was not a great photo and one of the reasons I edited the post in the first place. I suggested that Kininvie could prune the pink spireas if he didn’t want to see the flowers for a while. Sometimes a break is good. (Please note that I did not even HINT at spray paint or anything silly.)

      Teaspoons are stored in the kitchen drawer, and as to Mr. Douglas I have nothing but respect for him– and sympathy about that dreadful incident with the bull.

  7. b-a-g says:

    Glad to see your spireae has resurrected itself. I remember being one of the more judgmental commenters at the time of the amputation. However, since then I have executed a possibly more gruesome chelsea chop on my sedum – it made a terrible squeaking noise in protest. Whacking sounds like a slightly less painful alternative – what implement do you use for that?

    • linniew says:

      I use a surgeon’s bone saw.

      Well no I use a handsaw or pruners. Sometimes I use a winch but that is not so much for pruning, more for uprooting. And I have never heard any squeeking sounds–are you certain there weren’t some chipmunks or something living in the sedum?

  8. Andrea says:

    I am not familiar with them except the rose, but they are lovely, and i always see them in other blogs, haha! I assure you i will be waiting for ‘about to flower’.

  9. Bridget says:

    There’s a programme on TV called Strange and Unusual Deaths…I think Mr. Douglas’s demise merits being included there…so strange,,,,

    • linniew says:

      Some accounts suggest Mr. Douglas might actually have been robbed and subsequently PUT into the pit, which does not improve the experience but casts it in a slightly different light.

  10. Fay says:

    Hi there
    Do you think Mr Douglas was sent to your lands as a punishment and the trap was an ‘insider job’? We’ve so many plants to thank him for – pity he ‘fell’ into the pit really – what else might we have retained from your region. Clumsiness is not something to be reverred in a plant collector. What a silly man, probably like most of us staring up at the trees instead of watching his feet, unless of course it was a trap……. Love the regrowth on the Spirea – clearly not giving up the ghost is it?

    • linniew says:

      Hi Fay
      I think of those plant explorers sometimes, coming upon strange plants in exotic lands, digging up specimens to take home, and maybe putting them into a glass house perched on a ship’s deck, maybe only to have a storm come and destroy everything at sea. Still they did it, and it must have been very exciting finding new wonderful plants to share. On the other hand, falling into a pit with a bull isn’t my first choice for how to die.

  11. Grace says:

    Sheesh, Linnie Girl, I’m way behind. I like to think that I’m fairly familiar with a wide assortment of plants but you stumped me today. That is one helluva gorgeous Spiraea! The young one that is. The thousand-year old one isn’t too shabby either. See I told you it would survive. I didn’t tell you it would look like an ottoman though. I guess I can’t predict everything.

    Anyway, I love, love, love that Spiraea. Everything else looks great too.

    That Mr. Douglas was some guy, wasn’t he? I’d sure like to have my name on a bunch of plants in 200 years. Don’t think it’s going to happen though. I’m too scared of wild bulls.

    • linniew says:

      Personally I believe a healthy fear of wild bulls, which I do share with you, is likely a good thing. And really we refer to our plants however we want so I’m going to call the new spirea S. “Gracie’s Surprise” 🙂

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