Spiraea japonica “Goldflame”

To me the main joy of this Spiraea japonica “Goldflame” is the metamorphosis it undergoes in spring.  As the days lengthen it transforms itself from a dull deciduous shrub into a flaming bush. The new growth emerges reddish bronze, changing to yellow and then to green as the leaves mature.  In the early season the plant is covered in foliage at all stages of development providing a coat of many colours.  The flowers are dark pink corymbs held on the end of each branch and arrive in early summer. The species is found in the wild in China and Japan along river banks and other wet or boggy areas that do dry out from time to time.  It is very pollution tolerant and is therefore often seen in mass planting schemes in superstore car parks; these seldom do justice to this pretty and trouble-free shrub.  The much revered, Graham Stuart Thomas recommends it as a good ground cover plant.  Its common name is bridal wreath, originally bridelwort, and is probably referring to the white flowers of many of the genus.  On a slightly obscure note, it was apparently used by the Chinese for horse whips.  The name spiraea comes from the Greek speiraiara meaning “a plant used in garlands”.  The Ancient Greeks were partial to garland making with every event, obscure or otherwise, boasting the odd garland or two.  Sounds good to me.


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