We’re going “old school” for the plant of the month series this time. Spiraea prunifolia (Bridal Wreath) and Spiraea x vanhouttei (Vanhoutte Spirea) are almost indistinguishable to the average gardener. Your grandmother or great grandmother may have had a number of these in her garden, as they were common plants in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. So, they are often still seen in the older neighborhoods of Boulder Colorado Landscapes. Having gone out of style as more exotic and colorful forms of Spirea emerged and became more readily available, this landscaper brings them back in Glacier View Landscape’s designs and gives them the space they need to thrive.
There are some subtle differences between the two varieties. Bridal Wreath is somewhat smaller, growing 4’-8’ in height and width, though mostly closer to the 8’ in this landscapers experience, whereas Vanhoutte is a little larger, growing 5’-8’ in height, but 7’-10’ in width. A very common mistake when planting these is to plant them as foundation plantings too close to the home, thus rendering a lopsided looking full grown specimen. They need their space in order to achieve their true vase shape, where the tops grow up and out and over the top of previous year’s growth, cascading to the ground, thus looking like a brides wreath! And to add to the bridal wreath theme, the clusters of profuse small white flowers cover the entire plant in mid to late spring making the whole plant look like a bride’s bouquet.
Other differences between the two are that Bridal Wreath does have hues of red orange and yellow fall color, whereas Vanhoutte might only take on hues of purple and yellow before losing their leaves for the winter.
These plants are strong willed, somewhat drought tolerant, though they do benefit more from evenly moist and amended loamy soils, as with most Spirea. They bloom best in full sun, but can handle some shade as long as they get about 6-8 hours of direct sunlight in the summer months.
The Vanhoutte variety is a cross between Spiraea trilobata and Spiraea Cantoneinsis and honors Belgian nurseryman, L. B. Van Houtte (1810-1876). Bridal Wreath and Vanhoutte are double flowers, the double variety having been described in the botanical journals before the single flower variety. Thus, the single variety is generally not available to the average landscaper, and the double variety has become the standard of the species.
Plant one or a cluster of three in your garden to experiment with their beauty and bring a touch of the old world back to the modern landscape.
Thanks for reading!