ONLY ONE DECIDUOUS SHRUB here still has its leaves at Thanksgiving, and what amazing leaves they are. Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’ remains the richest gold, weeks after any other shrub but evergreens and fruit-filled hollies were worth a second look. I can’t stop looking at ‘Ogon’ (Japanese for “gold”), which catches my eye even though it’s at the farthest edge of the garden, beckoning.
I have read that in the Pacific Northwest, ‘Ogon’ (Zones 4-8, sun to part shade) may even keep its leaves, and color—the kind of golden that’s closer to orange than yellow–until Christmas. This form of Spiraea starts its season with an early show of tiny white flowers on its otherwise-bare, arching branches, which pop before the willowy-textured yellow foliage appears.
By summer ‘Ogon’ is yellow-green here, so even in its dullest moment not so bad. This is a great plant for the end of an axial view; mine is due west of where I sit and ponder (my current job: fulltime rumination). At 5 by 5 feet, ‘Ogon’ makes quite an impact even in such a long view. The one here is beside a winterberry holly of equal size, and the two have intermingled, together forming a yin-yang of hottest red and gold.
Spiraeas can be twiggy messes; this one is best pruned by removing the oldest, unproductive stems at the base each year to make room for new growth. Some fine-tuning of spent flowerheads may also be desired. Prune just after bloom (or earlier in spring if you don’t mind missing the flowers, produced on last season’s growth). Don’t try a partial cutback, which just makes the twiginess even worse, and spoils the natural mounding, arching habit of this good-as-gold shrub.