The Kerria japonica, named after William Kerr, is also known as the Japanese rose. Ours is the ‘pleniflora’, (far left) with a pompom blossom, rather than its simpler sister that just has five petals. For more extreme climates, it can tolerate winter temperatures to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 4b to 9b. It grows in long stems from the base of the plant, up to six feet wide and eight feet tall. Though it is usually planted in full or partial shade under trees or in a woodland setting, ours is in full sun and is very cheerful and eye-catching in spring, giving masses of yellow flowers for weeks. It spreads by suckers and needs pruning when the flowers have died back. Cut back the twiggy branches after it has finished blooming – next year’s flowers are produced on the summer’s new growth.
A lovely American gardening site called flowers by the sea (fbts.com) extols the virtues of pairing these fiery ‘popsicle’ dwarf versions of the red hot poker with salvias. Which sounds like a fab combination that I may very well have to try this year. Never having ventured into red hot poker land, the idea of mixing them with salvia adenophora, in honor of the wonderful holiday I had in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2008, sounds like it should light up the front bed like a firecracker.