Mono-sweeping is an industry term used to describe the massing of a single plant material, in abundance, in one particular area. Far too often I am asked to select plants for a particular site and come up with as many different types as possible. This is not only confusing to me, but the customer is left not with a viable landscape, but merely a collection of plants. This type of mind set is fine if your goal is to present specimens in a museum-like atmosphere. However, it lacks a certain rhythmic flow and can not afford sweeping, elongated lines that envelope and captivate ones attention simultaneously disarming and inviting them towards a destination without their knowledge.Landscape design should not be confusing, frustrating or intimidating. You need only be cognizant of color, texture, and size. Repetition is a good thing. One such plant that can afford itself in such a manner is the genus Spiraea.
Spiraea is a genus representing some eighty plus species and thus can offer some outstanding variety in any landscape. While most are deciduous in our temperate climate, these colorful dynamos help create some outstanding tapestries during the warmer months and far outweigh their nakedness in winter. Spiraea are in their glory during those months of backyard barbecues and hot summer days. And let’s face it, who’s really out there paying attention to their landscapes in the middle of winter. It’s more important to have color and texture during the months you’re using your yard.
Some of the more remarkable Spiraea’s are a result of a cross between S. albiflora and S. japonica. Simply put their genetic heritage stems from Japan. Spiraea x bumalda (Bumald Spirea) holds some of the more popular varieties even if they, at times, seem somewhat pedestrian. Perhaps one of the more marketable cultivars is Spiraea ‘Anthony Waterer’. Finishing nicely at four feet wide and tall, it lends itself well to mass plantings. Mark Hunter of Hunter Landscape Design in Bernardsville, New Jersey boasts “The real key to mono-sweep based design is to emphasize the architectural nature of the plants that are being used and limiting the varieties.” Other notable Bumald varieties include ‘Dolchica’, ‘Limeound’, and ‘Magic Carpet’. ‘Dolchica’ offers cutleaf foliage, deep purple new growth and pink flowers. More compact growing than most, it finishes between two and four feet. ‘Limemound’, an introduction from Monrovia Growers, horticultural craftsmen since 1970, has slender branching, lemon-yellow foliage and its furthest extensions show russet markings. Autumn foliage is orange-red and it too offers more of a compact form. ‘Magic Carpet’ is almost a ground cover form. Finishing nicely between eighteen and twenty four inches, ‘Magic Carpet’ has golden-yellow markings and pink flowers.
Spiraeas are tolerant of many adverse soil conditions, but do not like wet feet. Preferring to be in full sun, Spirea flowers long and hard throughout the hot summer months. Prune this variety of Spirea early in the spring before foliage appears and remove spent flowers after their first push and more will follow extending your seasonal color.
The list goes on and on for Spiraea. Shades of flower color and textural differences in foliage are plentiful and are only surpassed, in numbers, by the eighty plus species available to you. As you ponder your next landscape project consider, for a moment, the idea of “less is more.” Try planting fewer types of plant material, but more of them. Find that specimen you’ve been waiting for and mass plant a carpet of Spiraea around it. Work that embankment or sloped area with waves of purple or pink Spiraea. Finally impress your friends with hot pockets of containers filled with Spiraea on your patio or deck. Remember this is a plant has color for the majority of summer and is not to fussy about how it is handled. Impress yourself and your friends this summer with easy color and let your garden work for you.