Seven, Eight, Ninebark

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Dart's Gold' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Dart’s Gold’ (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

I’m a sucker for a pretty face, and when it comes to ninebark, there’s plenty of beauty to go around.  Coming in an array of colors ranging from a lively chartreuse green (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Dart’s Gold’) and shimmery copper (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Coppertina’) to the deepest burgundy, commonly known as Diabolo (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Monlo’) or Summer Wine (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Seward’), you are limited only by space and opportunity.

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Monlo' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Monlo’ (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

These North American natives are drought tolerant once established, hardy in zones 3-7, and not too picky about soil as long as it’s well drained.  Physocarpus performs best with a minimum of six hours of sun, but I have two ‘Darts Gold’, which would prefer some protection from intense afternoon sun.  The darker foliaged cousins lap up the vitamin D with no repercussions, but their lime green cousin will get scorch marks on its leaves during the hot, dry summer months.

Ninebark 'Dart's Gold' & Hosta 'Striptease' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Ninebark ‘Dart’s Gold’ & Hosta ‘Striptease’ (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

Whether dark or light leaved, all ninebarks produce prolific clusters of rosy blooms that ultimately turn white in early summer.  But, you don’t have to wait for summer to enjoy the charming ninebark family.  With their compact size (ranging from 5′ to 8′) and lush maple shaped leaves that unfurl in spring, the fabulous foliage display is enough for me.  And after the flowers drift away, the rich leaf colors persist through autumn.

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Seward' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Seward’ (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

When winter arrives and all the leaves have fallen, the patterns of exfoliating bark are bared for all to enjoy.  Branches hang lower on ‘Darts Gold’, yet stand more erect on the darker companions ‘Diabolo’ and ‘Summer Wine’, while either adds  engaging form and texture to the otherwise stark winter scene.  According to Bill Cullina, executive director of the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden and author of Native Trees, Shrubs and Vines, pruning physocarpus down to the ground late winter/early spring rejuvenates the shrub, promoting lush new growth and a more compact form. With the arrival of spring, you can decide if you’d like to sacrifice blooms for a bushier, showier foliage display, or indulge in the decadent blossoms soon to arrive.

Gorgeous architecture, available in stunning, yet complementary shades, with ornamental value even during bleak winter months; this is what ninebark is all about.  So, what are you waiting for?  Park outside your local nursery and get dibs on one before they’re all gone.

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