Evergreen shrubs are often considered the backbone of a garden. I have a decided preference for evergreens that also offer seasonal interest and I love fragrant plants. Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica) offers all three, with fragrant spring flowers, a solid evergreen presence and, on some varieties, colorful new growth.
There are three varieties growing at the Garden in the Woods. When we moved in, there were two large mature shrubs in the front yard. One of them is at the end of its life, but I’m hoping to take cuttings. The other graces the front door, and blooms in mid-Spring,
covering itself with long chains of delicate bell shaped flowers
which are much loved by bees.
This is probably a 25 or 30 year old shrub and most likely the plain species Pieris japonica. There’s been some breeding and selection focused on pink flowers and colorful new growth. P. j. ‘Valley Valentine’ is widely available with pink flowers and red new growth. The pink variety in the Garden in the Woods is P. j. ‘Dorothy Wyckoff’. It’s a lovely shrub, in full bloom just a few months after fall planting in this picture.
The flowers fade from pale pink to white, but the stems and calyces remain red.
This variety blooms a little earlier than the plain species, but that may be due to a warmer spot. About half of the shrub has died back which seems to be a problem with Pieris if they’re not perfectly sited. I’ll give it another year or so to recover before either moving it or dispatching it to that great garden in the sky.
The third variety in the Garden in the Woods is Pieris japonica ‘Prelude’ a dwarf shrub that blooms later in spring. This year that translates to just starting now, although in previous years, it’s been in bloom during April and early May.
I’m particularly fond of the combination of P. j. ‘Prelude’ and Blue Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium ‘Lucerne’) shown here. Blue Eyed Grass seems to be a short lived perennial for me, perhaps because even with amendment, the soil is still clay.
Pieris japonica is a hardy shrub, preferring well drained moist soil and partial shade.
- West Front, Sidewalk to House
- Southwest Front Corner
- West End of House