Any plant with japonica (or japonicus) in its name means it comes from Japan, as does this splendid shrub. And where a plant is from can tell you a lot about its needs. For one thing, this plant prefers the cooler regions of Australia, as it’s not particularly drought tolerant.
Pieris japonica’s most used common name, Lily-of-the-Valley shrub refers to the urn-shaped flowers that resemble those of the bulb of the same name. These flowers are undoubtedly the highlight of the plant, dangling as they do in masses from long elegant tassels.
It also has the added advantage of flowering in winter and early spring, when there is little else happening in many gardens, adding to its appeal as a dramatic feature plant. It’s an evergreen shrub with dark green leaves, bronze-coloured new growth, and it has a tidy shape that’s easy to maintain.
Ian Barker Gardens feature Pieris ‘Temple Bells’ in its Hawthorn project, for its clusters of light pink buds that open to gorgeous white bell shaped flowers in winter. The plant is positioned where it provides a spectacular show of flowers for all to see. The designer has also placed the shrub underneath a deciduous tree, where it’s protected from summer sun, yet has plenty of winter sunshine to flower.
There are many different cultivars of this shrub, such as ‘Christmas Cheer’, which has pale pink flowers, and ‘Dorothy Wycoff’, featuring compact but vigorous growth, dark red flower buds that open to light pink, and foliage that is dark green in the summer, turning bronze in the winter.