Sometimes, the seasons don’t matter. A problem is a problem whatever the time of year, and gardeners are among the worst when it comes to dwelling on things that are far removed from the bitter months of winter.
And so it is with Kerria japonica, aka Jew’s Mallow, a very easy-going shrub which will grow in just about any soil and any situation (although it may sulk if it’s planted in a wind tunnel).
People plant it, enjoy its early floral show and then worry about what has gone wrong when the blooms diminish in number while the stems and foliage thrive.
For most of the year it is a bit twiggy and uninteresting, but for a few weeks in spring it should be a little ray of light with its vivid yellow flowers.
Accept it as a gift from Mother Nature and enjoy it for what it is – a trouble-free, rather lax, multi-stemmed shrub designed to bring a vivid splash of colour as winter draws to a close. The flowers appear in April and can continue into May – and you may be fortunate enough to get an occasional sporadic second flowering.
The most popular variety is the double-flowered form, K japonica ‘pleniflora’, which can reach almost 10 foot in height, so it’s sometimes trained to grow up walls or trellises.
It’s a deciduous shrub in the rose, native to China, Japan and Korea, and is named after William Kerr, the renowned Scottish gardener and plant hunter.
Kerria will grow in any average, well-drained soil. It doesn’t mind shade. In fact, too much sun will bleach the flowers.
The biggest problem with the kerria is that it’s a bit of an untidy shrub, so it pays to prune it in June, removing all the shoots which have flowered.