Tiny Wine® NinebarkPhysocarpus opulifolius ‘SMNPOTW’ (PP# 26,749)
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Physocarpus opulifolius ‘SMNPOTW’ (PP# 26,749)
Outdoor Growing zone
The Tiny Wine® Ninebark is a compact deciduous shrub growing no more than 5 feet tall and perhaps 4 feet wide. It is dense and bushy, covered from top to bottom with small ruffled leaves in deep wine-red. The color lasts from spring through summer, and then in fall the leaves turn brighter red, ending in a brilliant scarlet display. In late spring a profusion of small pink and white flowers decorate it further, making this beautiful shrub an asset in every garden. Very cold-resistant, it is ideal for colder zones and sunny, exposed places. Perfect in shrub beds, as a hedge, or mass-planted on banks and sloping ground.
Full sun is needed to bring out the full colors of the Tiny Wine® Ninebark, and the leaves will be greener if it is grown in shade. Plant in any soil, including urban soils and poor locations, including clays and gravels. Don’t plant in flooded ground, but this plant tolerates a wide range of soils. Deer, insects and diseases don’t cause problems, and it can be pruned in spring or trimmed as needed. A shrub that is super-tough and super-easy.
If you garden in a cold part of the country, plant choices are more limited. So when something colorful and easy to grow comes along that is hardy even in zone 3, that’s big news. Let’s crack open a bottle then, and celebrate the arrival of the Tiny Wine® Ninebark. You might already know ninebarks as big, pushy shrubs that usually take up more room than their limited beauty deserves, but this one is very different. Its compact size is just the beginning, because not only does this tough shrub stay under 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide, it is as colorful as a carafe of Californian cabernet. The deep, wine-red leaves hold that vibrant coloring from spring through fall, making a great contrast with your other, plain-Jane green shrubs. It’s a perfect way to brighten any bed or dull area in your garden. In fall the leaves brighten to vivid reds. But that’s not all. In late spring it puts on an exceptional display of pink and white flowers, up and down the stems, making a lovely contrast against the dark leaves.
The Tiny Wine® Ninebark is a medium-sized deciduous shrub, bushy and branches to the base, with upright branches, tending to be more upright than rounded. The stems are strong and flexible, unaffected by snow-load, and the bark is peeling and reddish-brown. It shows multiple layers of color, from orange to tan, and gray to beige. These layers give it the common name of nine barks. The small leaves cluster closely all the way up the stems, and on short side-branches on older stems. They are rounded and irregular, a little more than one-inch long, and almost as wide. They are scalloped and serrated around the edges, with almost a fluted appearance. Right from the time they emerge they are deep wine-red, and very attractive. When fall arrives they brighten to warm reds and then to vivid, showy reds to end the season. Even during summer there is no greening or browning of the rich leaf-colors.
In late spring clusters of flowers develop at the ends of the branches, and along the stems. These are about one-inch across, but profuse on every branch. Each cluster contains about 24 flowers, each one a tiny miniature with 5 petals. When in bud they are bright, light pink, opening to a soft pink that soon turns pure white. The subtle but striking effect is very beautiful, and a seasonal highlight.
For adding structure and color to your shrub beds you can’t beat the Tiny Wine® Ninebark. Use it among other shrubs, evergreens and especially with plants that have yellow or variegated foliage – they show each other off. Grow it as a hedge along a path or driveway, or to hide an ugly fence. It can be trimmed as needed, but flowering will be reduced if you trim a lot. Grow it in more formal settings, or, since it is a native plant, in natural areas too.
The Tiny Wine® Ninebark is incredibly hardy, taking the chilly minus 40 degree minimums of zone 3 in its stride. It grows well through all cooler zones, but zone 7 is about its upper limit, as very hot summers can cause disease problems. If you should grow it in planter boxes, these can be left outdoors all winter from zone 5.
Full sun is best for the growth of the Tiny Wine® Ninebark, and especially for the leaf color, which will be brownish or greenish in shade. Shade also reduces flowering, so use it in places where the sun is bright and strong. It grows in just about any well-drained soil, including poor urban soils, low-grade construction soil and sandy soils as well as clays. If you have a place to plant it, it will grow. Avoid wet areas, although it will tolerate wet soils better than many other shrubs. Established plants are fine during normal summer droughts in zones where it grows.
Pests and diseases are usually not an issue with the Tiny Wine® Ninebark. Deer won’t bother it, at least until they become truly desperate, so it is generally left untouched. This plant has proved resistant to powdery mildew, which is a problem in hotter areas, so it is very reliable in zone 7, and when growing in humid weather. You can grow it without trimming, or trim shortly before growth begins in spring, and then once or twice through the season, if you want. Left untrimmed it will develop a natural, more vase-like form, and be very attractive. (And less work.) You can prune in spring if needed, shortening back longer branches and, after a few years, removing a couple of old ones each year, close to the ground. This will encourage new, vigorous growth and keep your plant great for many years to come.
The ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius, can be found throughout the eastern states, from New York state all the way into Florida, although it is much rarer in the south. It grows on the gravel flats beside rivers, and on the banks of rivers and streams. It also grows on the sunny edges of woodlands. The first plant with dark red leaves was found as one plant among 120,000 seedlings at a nursery in Germany in 1968. Eventually it was named ‘Monlo’ and introduced in America as Diabolo®. In 2000 Tim Woods of Spring Haven Nursery Inc. Grand Haven, Michigan, used pollen from Diabolo® to create a more compact variety, with smaller leaves, which is called Summer Wine® (‘Seward’). In 2006 he revisited that plant, so to speak, and collected some seeds from it. Among the seedlings was a beautiful new, compact plant with small, frilly and dark-colored leaves, and dense growth. He patented it in 2016 with the name ‘SMNPOTW’, and it is released by Spring Haven, under their Proven Winners brand, as Tiny Wine®.
Gardening in colder areas is hard enough, so do yourself a favor, take it easy, and add lots of color and interest without adding work and the disappointment of winter-killed shrubs. The Tiny Wine® Ninebark fits the bill perfectly, so use it freely wherever you want trouble-free color. You will love it – everyone does – but it would be best to order very soon, as our limited stock is going fast. Word is out on this fabulous vintage.