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sprig to twig » Blog Archive » Pieris: it's all about foliage

Pieris: it’s all about foliage

neighbor’s Pieris

Perhaps it’s just too easy. Pieris, also known as Andromeda or Lily-of-the Valley shrub, likes our climate, and so we see it everywhere. The old “familiarity breeds contempt” cliché kicks in and grumblings can be heard expressing distaste for a versatile shrub that manages to look good year-round with little to no coddling.

yellow with pinkish new growth

The yellow leaved variety has new growth that ranges from pinkish to almost white, and is a nice alternative to the lovely but only marginally hardy Choisia ‘Sun Dance’.

pink new growth

I’m still on the lookout for one with this pink new growth, which matures to a pleasant medium yellow-green.

deeper pink new growth

Here’s one with deeper pink new growth. Unlike shrubs that sport flowers this impressive, the leaves simply turn slowly greener, rather than withering, dropping and creating a big mess.

new growth on a variegated variety

The new growth on variegated varieties can be especially interesting.

‘Winter Fire’

‘Winter Fire’ is the only one I can name for you. Sorry for the lack of scholarly research, but late April, early May would be the time to go shopping to see what the colors will be.

variegated Pieris in bud

I quite like the linear effect of buds forming.

full bloom

I find them least attractive in full bloom: faintly reminiscent of a high school prank.

Joy Creek pruning

At Joy Creek they prune their Pieris to show off even the flowers to best advantage.

boxy prune job

Unlike some pruners, who spare themselves flowering, but at what cost?

JC Pieris

In fact, if you want to see Pieris at their best, Joy Creek in the spring has a number of different varieties in their display gardens.

JC Pieris 2

JC Pieris3

JC Pieris4

JC Pieris 5

The other thing I noticed when driving around working for the US Census was that Pieris has found its way into foundation plantings along with more interesting conifers than had been the norm. Since we started gardening on a large property it has become less important for every tree or shrub to be a conversation piece. Sometimes something that can hold its own against the elements, make few demands upon the exhausted gardeners and look better than merely presentable through all the seasons is just the ticket. More leaf lovers’ talk over at Digging.

So…now that I’ve made my case for this much-maligned shrub, what do you think? Have I changed your mind? Did you like them already? Can you imagine one taking up residence at your place?

10 Responses to “Pieris: it’s all about foliage”

  1. Alison Says:

    There was a Pieris at the house we rented when we first moved here to the PNW, and I had to pass it every day bringing grocery bags in from the car. It was always covered in bees and freaked me out. So I don’t think I’ll be planting one. It is a gorgeous shrub though.

  2. Janet, The Queen of Seaford Says:

    I planted three Cavatine the first year we were here, this year I added three more variegated with pink flowers…forget the variety right now. Also added one whose new growth is red…but I really like that pink one you shared!! whoaaaa

  3. Heather Says:

    I’m finally coming around to the very mature specimen in my yard . . . and sadly we’re going to have to tear it out, eventually. Pretty flowers and evergreen, what’s not to like?

  4. Loree /danger garden Says:

    Oh Ricki…bless you! Someone else out there loves the lowly Pieris! I inherited two with the house, now granted I wouldn’t have planted them if the choice were mine, but I am very attached to them and have resisted Andrews talk of taking them out. I even love there flowers.

  5. Pam/Digging Says:

    I’m not familiar with this shrub at all, so no contempt here — I’m gaga over it! Thanks for the introduction. Also I’m still chuckling over your comparison of the full bloom to a high-school prank. :-)

  6. ricki Says:

    Alison~Oh, but just think of all the good those bees do for your garden…maybe not right by your front door.

    Janet~Yes! The pink one! Alwys room for one more, right?

    Heather~I HATE having to dig out/cut down healthy big stuff.

    Loree~You posted some pictures of the flowers on yours which swayed me in that direction.

    Pam~While we, in turn, go gaga over your Whale’s Tongue Agave.

  7. Outlaw Says:

    Ricki, Add me to the list of pieris admirers! I even love the flowers which bloom at an especially welcome time, remind me of dangly earrings from the 70’s and look quite nice cut and arranged with camellias and daffodils. Thanks for posting about them!

  8. ricki Says:

    Outlaw~Good idea for using them in bouquets. I love your blog, but have had no luck leaving comments. Hope you see this so you will know of my admiration.

  9. james Says:

    Love the colors! Pieris reminds me remotely of poinsettias. But it looks much more successful in the landscape than the feral poinsettias that you see down my way, plants that people have freed into their gardens after the holidays are over.

  10. ricki Says:

    James~When I lived down there, I never got over being filled with awa to look up and see poinsettia TREES. Ditto jade HEDGES.

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