August 1, 2010

Spirea: a Gardening Oops

First of the month, time to show you a Gardening Oops.  Visit Joene's Garden for more.  Here's mine.

Three little Spireas x bumalda 'Gold Flame' were planted by the builder at the very corner of the front walk, right next to our front steps.  The three plants quickly merged together and had a nice reddish cast as they put out their leaves in spring.

The pink blooms and chartreuse foliage in June were a little jarring... not quite an oops yet, but beginning to startle visitors on the way to the front door.  Nice and full looking, though.

I had added a Crimson Queen weeping Japanese maple and some golden foliage heathers .... we're starting to get a little out there with the color combos:

But the real oops wasn't the gaudy maroon - gold - yellow - pink neon hotflash; in some ways that was working.  The real oops was that it was all getting waaaay too big for the front walk.  It was a wrestling match as the spirea and the Japanese maple elbowed, pushed and jostled to see which one would rise to be the front focal point: 

Despite pruning out almost half of the dense stems each winter, the spirea crowded out the arching branches of the Japanese maple to its left, and started leaping across the walk to the right.  The picture below was in late June.  By August the spirea had joined forces with the cotoneasters on the far side of the walk and the UPS guy needed a pruning saw to get through to the front steps.  The encroaching form didn't soften the hard edges of the steps, it began to obliterate them:
I was such a new gardener that I could not think of taking out anything this robust and flush with growth... how could I?  But the spirea was deforming the weeping neighboring maple, it required a lot of pruning, the barking bloom and foliage color was making me edgy, and it was just too much mass aggressively squatting at the front door, threatening visitors.  I felt like it should be chained to the pillar.

I took it out in 2009, and boy was it a job of work to get those three merged spireas out.  But the things needed to go.   What an oops.


  1. Too bad. They did look good with the maple.

  2. I am learning to be more willing to take things out. I used to try to work around them, but life is too short and my garden isn't big to hide mistakes. Now I bury 'em - in the compost. :)

  3. Lisa, they just had to go!

    Garden Ms. S, I had such a hard time getting rid of them, and tried to save some, but then decided I just don't like this spirea. At all. They are now all in the compost pile, but it was difficult!

  4. Thanks for being a regular GOOPs participant, Laurrie. It often takes time to ease from plant nourisher to plant destroya, but when the gardener who sees and cares for the garden simply dislikes a plant, it's the plant or the gardener ... the later should win out.

  5. Joene, I never thought I could become a plant destroyer, but you are so right... some stuff has to go.

  6. I divided a spirea I had into about 5 plants around the yard, something I regret now. I liked it mainly becus of it's tidy, mounded appearance which took so well to pruning with an electric pruner.

    And they look pretty enough when in bloom, maybe 2 weeks out of the year.

    But a few days ago I got out the shovel and dug the biggest one up, quite a job, as you say.

    It was squat in a wide pathway on the side of the house. Even when I planted it I questioned the wisdom of doing so, but for some reason I did anyway. For probably 10 years I've had to squeeze past its ever expanding shape, mow around it and generally pardon myself every time I need to get by it.

    Now it's out, roots and all, and I'll be picking up a bale of hay in Woodbury today so I can plant some grass seed over the spot.

    As I get a little older, low maintenance stuff takes on added importance.

  7. Fern, why we plant things in the wrong place is a mystery, but we do it. I'm glad you finally got that spirea out... doesn't it feel (and look) much better now?

  8. Laurrie, I was wondering if you could contact me. I’m writing on behalf of the visual editor for to request your permission to use one of your photos on the site. The photo nicely illustrates a topic we’re writing about. HouseLogic, published by the National Association of Realtors®, covers home ownership-related topics.
    My email address is



    1. Cathy, I sent you an e-mail with permission to use a photo, with attribution. Thanks for asking!


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