A Grower’s Perspective:
Back in the dark ages when I was a Hort student at the University of Illinois, I remember taking plant walks with my woody ornamentals class, and I recall looking at many species and thinking, why would anybody plant one of these in their yard? At that time, Physocarpus (Ninebark) fell into that category for me. It was a rather unkempt, ratty looking shrub with no redeeming ornamental characteristics other than some exfoliating bark. Woohoo!. That can no longer be said. The following are reviews of two shrub introductions which are some of the best flowering shrubs and deserve your attention.
Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Donna May’, better known as ‘Little Devil’ Ninebark, is one of several Ninebark choices available in the industry. One of my favorites, ‘Little Devil’ is just one of the plant solutions offered by the First Edition collection of plants. Fairly new to the market having been introduced in 2011, it is just now gaining popularity for its many superior characteristics. With its diminutive stature measuring in with a 3-4’ height and width, it is an excellent choice for tighter spaces. With its exceptional deep burgundy foliage as a backdrop to its white summer flowers during June, it makes quite a show in the garden. Requiring minimal pruning and having excellent disease and insect resistance,’Little Devil’ is an excellent choice for both the homeowner and commercial site. With a USDA hardiness rating of Zones 3-7, it will work in a wide range of climates.
Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Jefam’ a.k.a. ‘Amber Jubilee’ Ninebark is another excellent First Editions introduction. Released in 2012, I am just becoming familiar with the information about the plant. It has superb foliage color with varying shades of orange, yellow and gold throughout the growing season. Fall color is said to possess tones of red and purple although I have not yet witnessed it. While it will require more space than Little Devil, it still has a place in many landscapes because of its “hot” foliage colors. With a USDA hardiness rating of Zones 2-7, ‘Amber Jubillee’ also can be used in many climates. As a side note ‘Amber Jubilee’ Ninebark was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee.