Spirae which are in full bloom everywhere right now. The name Spiraea is derived from the Greek word speiraia, meaning a plant used for garlands. The genus is spelled Spiraea, but the common name drops an a and is spelled spirea. There are some 90 species of spireas occurring naturally in Europe, North America and Asia. Baby’s breath spirea is the earliest flowering of the spireas.
Quiz: Which plant when in full bloom looks like a white-haired goat?
Answer: The yukiyanagi, literally means snow goat. Called the Spirae, the yukiyanagi when in full bloom suggests an image of a fleecy white animal with the tiny white lacy blossoms on graceful and willowy branches.
They grow in rocky places, thickets, woodlands, woodland margins and riverbanks. They are widely found throughout the northern temperate regions extends through Asia, Europe, Asia and North America including Mexico.
Spirae are cultivated mainly for their terminal, umbel-like racemes of flowers. These are small and mainly saucer or bowl-shaped, white, yellow, pink or purple flowers. Each flower may be 0.5-1cm across, or sometimes a little larger. They cover the shrub when borne in spring or summer.
Spiraea thunbergii Also known as Baby’s breath spirea is a graceful and wispy little shrub with a very fine texture – even by spirea standards. The slender wiry branches arch outward and nod downward, forming a twiggy, multistemmed mound 5-6ft (1.5-1.8 m) tall and about as wide. The semideciduous pale green leaves are thin and wispy, too; they are almost linear, a little more than 1 in (2.5 cm) long and 1/4 in (0.6 cm) wide, with a few coarse teeth along the margins. The dainty pure white five-petaled flowers are borne singly or in clusters of two or three along the stems. They are about a 1/3 in (0.8 cm) across and appear before the new leaves in late winter or early spring, often covering the whole shrub.
Yukiyanagi means snow willow in Japanese. Also known as Spirae thunbergi native to Japan. In bloom everywhere, and in our garden too.
Baby’s breath spirea blooms on the previous season’s growth, so do any pruning immediately after flowering, before next year’s flower buds develop. Remove old, nonproductive stems at ground level to stimulate vigorous new growth and to keep the plant from becoming too leggy and open. Never shear a spirea across the top. Cut out dead stem tips anytime of year.
Compact spiraeas are ideal for rock gardens. Taller spiraeas can be used for informal hedges. No Japanese park is without spirae bushes. Baby’s breath spirea performs best in full sun, but does quite well in partial shade, especially in warmer climates. Baby’s breath spirea likes a well drained soil and has ordinary water requirements. It tolerates summertime dry spells well. Baby’s breath spirea is an extremely hardy little shrub and one that may not lose its leaves in mild winters. This spirea blooms most profusely in cooler climates, usually flowering all at once in a splendid profusion of white blossoms. In the South, baby’s breath spirea tends to start blooming sporadically in January or February and the flowering season is more spread out.
Spireas are easily propagated from cuttings of green tip shoots taken in late spring and summer and rooted with bottom heat in a closed container; or from mature wood cuttings taken in autumn and rooted in a cold frame. Baby’s breath spirea also can be propagated by dividing the root clump.
Posted on March 27, 2006