from 4.50

GROWING ON - AVAILABLE 2020. Sorbaria Sem, a variety of the plant sometimes called ‘false spiraea’ because of the similar shape of leaf, really does ring the changes in colouration through the seasons, with its pinnate leaves going through shades of pink, red, bronze and fresh green. White summer flowers, too, just as a bonus. Sem is indeed a little gem. Sun or semi-shade. Any reasonable soil. Around 4 feet. 2 litre pot.

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Sorbaria Sorbifolia is native to pretty harsh environments in northern China and Japan so is tough enough to take what the British climate can throw at it. It is deciduous so will lurk inconspicuously in the garden through the off season before exploding into multicoloured life in early spring. It’s a vigorous little thing, and we find that severe pruning just before it gets going can be a good thing. It might seem a tad shocking to take it right back in this way, but over the course of the season Sem will make strong enough growth to re-establish itself as a definite presence. The flowers, when they come in mid summer, are lovely plumes of frothy white, with a hint of astilbe (or, indeed, spiraea) about them, and they retain a certain charm even once they have gone over and take on a tan hue. Just be aware that this shrub doesn't want to be in a windy spot, which can burn the leaves.

Sem has been around pretty much as long as the century, having been developed in the late nineties and early noughties by Dutch plant breeder JJP Nouws. The parent species Sorbaria Sorbifolia can be a bit of a thug, but Sem is much better behaved; it is still a thicket forming shrub by nature so will push up new stems from below ground level, but generally not so as to be a nuisance. If you do need to restrain it, just use a spade to shear off unwanted shoots around the outside of the clump. Its habit does, however, make it a good choice as a container plant, as it will fill out a pot nicely from the bottom up.

Here is a short video that gives a good idea of the qualities of Sorbaria Sem as a garden - or container - plant.

Sorbaria Sorbifolia Sem is a hardy deciduous shrub with ferny pink, red, bronze and green leaves and white flowers in summer suitable for sun or semi-shade.

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