Thursday, March 1, 2018

Not 8 but Ninebark

I thought I'd take a moment today to extol the virtues of one of my favorite shrubs, Physocarpus opulifolius, also known as Ninebark. This deciduous shrub, native to the east coast, is out here in the milder zones, nearly a four season plant. It is one of the few shrubs that's a quadruple threat. That is, all four aspects of its cycle offer something to the eye. In early spring it leafs out quickly, offering either mint green, plum, amber or golden foliage, depending on the variety. In short order, clusters of Spirea-like white flowers appear, attracting hummers and butterflies. These are followed by showy, dark red seedpods that are almost more of a feature than the flowers. Certain songbirds will come calling to harvest the seeds. Finally, as the shrub goes deciduous in late fall, one has the exfoliating bark. As the shrub ages, the bark will peel not just once but multiple times, leading to its common name.
Ninebarks are tough shrubs, able to deal with temperatures down to 0 degrees F. That doesn't stop them from doing well in milder climates. The beauty of their foliage, the sweetly decorative clusters of tiny white flowers, the highly ornamental seedpods and finally the peeling bark, all of this makes Physocarpus one of the best garden shrubs.
Here are a few photos from the web. All of these are P. opulifolius varieties.

Physocarpus 'Diabolo.' Here it's the plum colored foliage that's the real appeal

Physocarpus 'Festivus Gold.' There are several golden-leaved varieties. I have the 'Nugget' variety in my garden.

Physocarpus 'Ginger Wine.' A lovely range of colors, from ginger to dark red to burgundy.

Physocarpus 'Amber Jubilee.' One of the more glorious colors available with Ninebarks. Positively glows in the sun.

Physocarpus green-leaved variety. I included this picture to not only show you the color of the straight species but the beginning of the seedpods.

Physocarpus variety. Here's a closer look at the waxy seedpods. They will eventually split and spill out the seeds.

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