Passersby have often asked what are the two shrubs with graceful arching branches forming a living gateway for our front path. Barbara answers Physocarpus, and depending on how thoughtful the follow up questions, she can go into great detail. She loves this native and non-invasive plant. So do I. We have three others on the property. In 2002 the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society named it a Gold Medal Plant.
They are commonly referred to as Ninebarks due to the exfoliating layers of mahogany to caramel shaded twigs, which are an intriguing sight in winter, when the birds have stripped all the berries off. Those berries are a pleasing color contrast to the bronze leaves in fall. I like to watch the deep red seeds gradually replace the two inch spherical white blooms as summer wears on.
Spring thru summer here at 41 degrees north latitude in partial sun, the three inch leaves maple-like leaves are a dark green-maroon color. We prune out the tallest canes every summer after the bloom to keep the natural fountain shape, while preventing it from getting much above seven feet tall.
And please, you are one of the many residents of northeast U.S. suburbs who live sealed in houses or trucks, consider cancelling the mow and blow service, turn off the air conditioner, open the windows, feel the breeze, listen to the birds, get out into your garden and let Physocarpus know how much you love it once in a while.
Correction: Barbara reminded me that at least with the variety we grow, Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diablo", at least at this location in central New Jersey, the berries form in June, and the birds make sure they never see autumn. See the lead photo on this article now, showing the 4- and 5-lobe fruits forming up.