The winter was such that The Garden Guy's house has some of the most beautiful flowers ever for mid-April. There are echinacea, coreopsis, dianthus, and salvias galore. The first plant you would walk to however has no blooms yet; it is a shrub that for all appearances seems like "the burning bush."
Your eyes become fixated on the glow of golden leaves and flaming red tips. It is the Double Play Candy Corn Spirea. The name is certainly appropriate but, holy wow is it a beauty. As a horticulturist and garden writer, there are not many plants we write about that the foliage takes your breath away before knock out flowers appear.
I wrote about Double Play Candy Corn Spirea in 2018 as my son James was using it as a pansy partner. This may say it all when you consider he was using a deciduous shrub as a pansy pal. To be honest I don't think we as horticulturists and gardeners have begun to see the possibilities that this relatively new shrub from Proven Winners offers us in the landscape or in large containers. Even to say spirea and containers in the same reference is a little unnerving.
Though we have been loving it for well over a year, we were still thinking that it wasn't really a shrub or plant for the South and the extreme heat and humidity; after all it is a Spiraea japonica. If you allow me to chase a rabbit, why is it spirea as a common name and spiraea as a scientific name? Ugh, I digress.
So, we as horticulturists with the power of science behind us were thinking negatively about the plant as we were falling in love with it in secret. Unbeknownst to most of us, large nurseries in the Deep South were growing it as fast as they could produce it.
Face it, Double Play Candy Corn Spirea is as an alluring of a plant in the nursery as it gets. You will want one and probably decide on at least three. I want more. I want it for the flaming foliage. If I get the knock out purple-red blooms great too! The Proven winners tag says it all; the foliage color is orange, red, yellow and pineapple yellow in more shade. The flower color is a shade of purple.
The plants bloom on new wood so cutting back late winter is always a good thing. I did that and first thing I noticed in early March was what looked like fire coming from the ground. Deadheading or a light shearing after bloom will often stimulate another round of blooms, which by the way be bringing in butterflies.
As I mentioned Double Play Candy Corn is known botanically as Spirea japonica or Japanese spirea and is cold hardy from zones 4-8. You may have even grown other varieties like Gold Flame, Gold Mound and Anthony Waterer. Moist fertile loam is recommended in the landscape. It becomes quickly apparent that the premium blends of potting soil used in mixed containers are also just right to maintain its stunning presence.
Candy Corn is recommended for full sun, though in the hottest parts of zone 8 or 9, I would probably go toward a morning sun and afternoon shade. You'll find this one to be more compact reaching 18 to 24 inches with a mound habit, though you'll find them great as a border accent plant or even grown as a small hedge and, yes, containers too.
I am growing mine in close proximity to Rockin Blue Suede Shoes salvia, which is a marriage of indescribable beauty and contrast. I also have it paired with blue agastache. This is the plant of your dreams for design in the garden.
The Double Play series has several choices, Double Play Red, Double Play Gold, Double Play Big Bang and others, but I assure you the Candy Corn will be on your must-have list.
(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)
(c)2020 Norman Winter
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