grow, marvel, eat, laugh, persevere

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Year In The Life Of Vanhoutte Spirea

Meet Vanhoutte Spirea. It's the big ass shrub that came with the house. I had no idea what it was until some helpful gardening bloggers ID'd it for me. As you can see this thing is completely out of control. It's taller than the 6 foot fence and I think I remember that it was like 12 feet wide and protruded from the fence over 7 feet. Carolyn and Carol both told me they felt that it had a nice shape when I first posted about how much I hated it, but that was one of the few things that I totally disagreed with them about. This thing was just too much and it had to go.

I don't know if you've ever seen a Vanhoutte Spirea in bloom but it's breath taking. Every branch is stuffed with beautiful white flowers and that is the one time where I'd agree, the bigger and more out of control the better. But after the blooms are finished, an out of control Spirea is an eye sore in a bare garden like I had at that time.
So I hacked Vanhoutte all the way to the ground (below). I never posted any pictures of it because I knew I'd be scolded by gardening bloggers world wide. I just figured, if it lived that'd be great, and if it didn't I'd be OK with that, too. I did find that the center of the shrub looked completely dead. I don't know the life cycle of a Vanhoutte but I have a feeling this one is towards the end of it. And it took a few weeks but I finally started to see some growth. Thank goodness!

Here it is after it started growing back (below). Isn't that adorable? And much more the size of a shrub I needed for this bed. It turns out that, for multi-stemmed shrubs, you can cut them all the way to the ground and it "rejuvenates" them. Now don't run out and do this to all your out of control shrubs because it won't work on the single stemmed ones. If you kill your shrubs, don't blame me! Mutilating shrubs is risky business.

So then the landscaper made it in to a ball. Bad Landscaper! I had no idea that I needed to specifically tell a landscaper not to make things into balls. Why are they so obsessed with that? Is there anybody who actually asks their landscaper to make their shrubs into balls?

And since Vanhoutte Spirea blooms on old wood, I assumed that it wouldn't bloom this year which kinda pissed me off.
Well here it is this morning (below). I just love this shrub. That it has taken all the abuse thrown it's way over the past year really impresses me. The blooms are nearly as profuse as they normally are, but it is still breathtaking.
It'll always have a place in my garden. And if it ever dies, I'll buy another one. It's the elder in my garden.


  1. I have a vague recollection of being told that you shouldn't place a Buddha head below eye level - Buddha should be looking down on you, not the other way around.

    Anyone know if this is right?

  2. Gina, What is that head doing in your garden??

    Anyway... the Vanhoutte spireas are indeed an old fashioned shrub, but you are right they do just
    have a few weeks of glory and then you want them to disappear into the background. Good job being brave enough to whack it back. I would have applauded had you told us!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  3. chz - i sure hope you are wrong cuz i love my buddha!

    carol - don't be afraid. the buddha loves you ;)

  4. I like those reddish plants in the blooming spirea photo. What are they?

  5. matriarchy - it was a pass-a-long plant and I believe it's Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red'. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. You wouldn't have gotten any scolding from me if you had wanted to take out that spirea! And not because I have a thing for them, either... I just think that if you like or don't like something, hey, it's your garden. Even mature trees should be taken out if you absolutely do not like them for some reason.

    Okay, rant over. :) I think the new bed looks nice--and I love the buddha head! What's that sprouting up behind him?

  7. HA! After I posted, I scrolled down and read the other blogger's question and your answer. Sorry about that, Gine. :) But 'Husker's Red' really does look amazing with the color of that statuary.

  8. If you kill that Spirea you won't be just going out and buying another because they are SO not easy to find, my dear. But the good news is that it will take a lot of your abuse.

    I believe that chz is right. Buddha is not suppose to be looking up at you so raise him up or suffer the consequences of bad karma : )

  9. You get points for finding a plant that can take a lickin'. And it's not taking over your whole yard. Bonus!

  10. Heather's GardenMay 18, 2008 at 2:32 PM

    Don't you dare touch that head, it look perfect there! Is there any reason that everyone thinks it's a buddha. Could just be a decorative Asian head.

  11. I just don't get how some people think plants should look like balls, lollipops, etc. I'm glad yours bloomed in spite of the haircut. Good job on getting that plant under control.

  12. I am jealous of your spirea. I planted a row of them along our back yard two summers ago and they will not grow. The soil is bad, clay, and they are out in the sun. We built a house on farmland and have no shade trees yet. Sny ideas?

  13. Hi Linda - thanks for visiting my blog. You could buy some compost to ammend the poor soil around the newly planted spirea. As far as shade trees, the possibilities are endless! Not sure what zone you are in but I'd suggest doing a search for your local "extension office" (example: illinois extension office) and search for shade trees that grow well in your area.

    Good luck!

  14. The saddest part of your story is that whomever planted the vanhoutte in the first place put it at least 3 feet too close to the property line. The fence will always encroach on the shrub's form.

    Ours is about 4' tall, fountain-shaped. We shape it every other year to control the size, then let it fluff out.

  15. Our landscaper cuts all 7 of mine into balls every other year. Why .. I'm not certain. Must be a genetic trait with landscapers. The following year they bloom but not as profusely as they should. I finally asked them to please leave them alone!