Grow a Shrub That Offers Visual Intrigue All Year Long


“There’s a place for Ninebark in almost every garden,” says Kelly D. Norris, a landscape architect and author of New naturalism, from this look all year round. The natural deciduous shrub in North America, the genus Physocarpus, comes in an impressive range of colors and sizes. In spring, the foliage appears in tart hues like Chartreuse, copper, and dark purple. In early summer, small globes with pink or white flowers appear that attract pollinators such as native bees, butterflies, and birds that nest in their branches. (The stems also last a week or more in Arrangements – just cut off their ends before putting them in a Vase.) After the leaves fall in the fall, the exfoliating bark unfolds on mature plants in cinnamon, gray, and charcoal strips. But Ninebark doesn’t just look good: “It’s a tough, simple plant,” Norris says. “Find a variety that you like, dig a hole and you will go to the races.”

If you have little space, plant a dwarf variety like ‘Little Devil’ in a container. To create a hedge or a screen, align several plants (Martha grows Diabolo around your pool). You can also spice up a border by adding a contrasting foliage color as a focal point or replace barberry and spirea shrubs with this useful native. “Ninebark can grow in sand, heavy clay, and everything in between,” Norris says, and it does well in full sun or partial shade. (The more light it receives, the brighter its leaves become.) It does not need fertilizer or irrigation except in severe drought. “Every few years at the end of winter, give your shrub a rejuvenating blow to the ground,” advises Norris. “It may sound drastic, but it will pay off when the new growth returns. Here are some of our favorite Ninebark varieties that you can try in your own space.

‘Amber Jubilee’
The spring leaves of this chameleon grow in flaming orange (see above), then turn light green in summer and Burgundy in autumn.

The variety can grow up to eight feet tall. For a more compact variety with a similar appearance, opt for ‘Fireside’.

‘Dart’s Gold’
Its bright yellow foliage is like the Sun. If you are in a hot and humid area, try ‘Festivus Gold’ instead; it is resistant to powdery mildew.

Physocarpus opulifolius

This species, characterized by arched branches, often grows naturally on the banks of rivers, where it stops erosion by keeping the soil in place.

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