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Pieris japonica (Thunb.) D. Don

Modern name

Pieris japonica (Thunb.) D. Don ex G. Don


Andromeda japonica Thunb.

An evergreen shrub, ultimately 9 or 10 ft high, of bushy habit, and clothed to the ground with branches; young shoots usually glabrous. Leaves leathery, oblanceolate or narrowly oval, usually widest above the middle, tapering towards both ends, 114 to 312 in. long, 13 to 34 in. wide, shallowly toothed, dark glossy green above, paler beneath, glabrous on both surfaces. Flowers in a terminal cluster of slender pendulous racemes each 3 to 6 in. long; corolla white, pitcher-shaped, 14 to 38 in. long, narrowed towards the mouth, where are five shallow, rounded teeth; calyx-lobes lanceolate, scarcely half as long as the corolla; flower-stalk 18 in. long, glabrous.

Native of Japan. This shrub is not so hardy as P. floribunda, from which it is easily distinguished by the leaves being narrower and more tapering at the base, by the pendulous inflorescence, and by the absence of hairs on the young wood and flower-stalks. It flowers in March and April, and is often injured by frost. At its best it is a very beautiful shrub. It should be given a sheltered spot, with a western exposure.

cv. ‘Bert Chandler’ (‘Chandleri’). – Young leaves at first bright salmon-pink, paling through cream to white and becoming the normal green by mid­summer. A seedling raised by the Australian nurseryman Bert Chandler around 1936 (Gard. Chron., Vol. 167 (1970), p. 4).

cv. ‘Daisen’. – Flowers deep pink in the bud, paling as they open. The original plant was found on Mount Daisen in Japan and put into commerce by Mr K. Wada (see his article ‘Pieris japonica and its Future’ in Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 92 (1967), pp. 26-8). According to him, the colour is best developed in shade. ‘Christmas Cheer’ is a seedling of this and of the same character, but it opens some of its flowers in winter, whence the name. Raised by Mr Wada.

cv. ‘Purity’. – Flowers pure white, unusually large. A Japanese variety reputed to have come from Yakushima, and originally distributed as P. yakusimana, though Mr Wada suggests that it may be a ‘natural sport’ (loc, cit.). It appears to be intermediate in foliage between P. japonica and P. taiwanensis, but according to Mr Wada, no plant known to have come from Yakushima resembles ‘Purity’.

f. pygmaea (Maxim.) Yatabe Andromeda japonica lusus pygmaea Maxim. – This was described by Maximowicz from a plant of Japanese gardens, about 1 ft high, with linear-lanceolate leaves about one-third of the usual size, and with more sparsely flowered, sometimes unbranched, inflorescences. A similar plant has been found growing wild on Mount Daisen in Japan (Wada, loc. cit.).

It may be mentioned here that prostrate plants only 10 in. high and a yard across were found by M. Robert de Belder on Mt Miyanoura, Yakushima, in November 1970, from which seeds were collected (Int. Dendr. Soc. Ybk (1972), p. 29).

cv. ‘Variegata’. – This has narrower leaves than the type, edged, especially towards the apex, with yellowish white. Well grown, it is one of the most attractive of variegated evergreens. It is slow-growing at first, but has reached a height of 12 ft at Grayswood Hill, Haslemere, and is almost as tall at Nymans in Sussex and at the Sunningdale Nurseries, Berks.

Pieris japonica

Pieris japonica

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

New synonyms: P. taiwanensis Hayata; P. japonica subsp. taiwanensis (Hayata) Hatushima; P. yakushimensis Hort.

For the inclusion of P. taiwanensis in P. japonica see below, under P. taiwanensis. Recent introductions from the island of Yakushima are of low-growing habit but are not botanically distinct from P. japonica.

P. japonica also occurs in China (Anhwei, Chekiang and Fukien), but does not overlap there with P. formosa.

Since the third volume of the present edition was published in 1976, a number of selections of P. japonica have come into commerce, mostly raised in the USA and Canada, which are likely to supersede the few that were available at that time. Trials that included many of the newcomers were held at Boskoop in the late 1970s and are reported on by D. M. van Gelderen in Dendroflora, No. 15/16, pp. 36-44 (1979). In Britain most of the new cultivars are grown in the National Collection at Windsor (Valley Gardens and Savill Garden). Some of these are mentioned by John Bond in the article cited above and we are grateful to him for additional information.

cv. ‘Bert Chandler’. – Mentioned on page 205, this is not of much value, as the flowers are small and not freely produced though the young foliage is striking. Mr van Gelderen suggests that it is a hybrid between P. japonica and P. formosa.

† cv. ‘Blush’. – Of open, elegant habit to about 5 ft high and wide. Flowers rosy pink, paling as they age. This was put into commerce by Messrs Hillier and first exhibited by them in 1967. They did not, however, raise it and there is a possibility that it came from a German nursery as an unnamed seedling. It is portrayed in colour by Ann Farrer in The Plantsman, Vol. 4 (2), frontispiece.

cv. ‘Daisen’. – Neither this nor its seedling ‘Christmas Cheer’ has proved to be of much value. The latter has also been distributed as ‘Wada’s Pink’.

† cv. ‘Dorothy Wyckoff’. – As grown in this country and in Holland, this makes a tall, slender shrub, to about 6 ft, its flowers brownish red in bud, opening white, in short trusses. ‘Dorothy Wyckoff’ was raised in the USA and put into commerce in 1960, but according to early descriptions in American publications, the flowers should be uniform pink when open.

† cv. ‘Flamingo’. – A tall shrub of rather narrow habit, to about 10 ft high. Leaves dark green, yellowish brown when young. Flowers pink, shading to white at the base, more deeply coloured than in other pink-flowered clones now available. Its only defect is that it is inclined to drop its flower-buds in severe weather. It received an Award of Merit when shown by Messrs Trehane in 1981. Raised in the USA and put into commerce in 1961.

† cv. ‘Grayswood’. – A dome-shaped shrub eventually 4 to 5 ft high. Leaves dark green and slightly glossy, bronze when young. Flowers white, in long drooping racemes, very freely borne. Now extensively grown in the Valley Gardens, Windsor Great Park, it came originally from the garden of the late Geoffrey Pilkington at Grayswood Hill, Haslemere. It is one of the best of the group, standing full sun. Award of Merit 1981, when shown by the Crown Estate Commissioners. In the Windsor collection this was the only pieris to give a good display of flower in the spring of 1986.

† cv. ‘Little Heath’. – Slow-growing and compact, to about 3 ft high and wide, with yellowish green variegation. A promising new introduction, inclined to revert. The normal green form is also attractive and has been named ‘Little Heath Green’.

† cv. ‘Mountain Fire’. – This cultivar is remarkable only for its bright brownish red young growths, which retain their colour for a long time before turning dark green. Raised in British Columbia and put into commerce in 1976.

† cv. ‘Pink Delight ‘. – Of recent introduction, this has pink flowers fading to blush, freely borne.

cv. ‘Purity’. – Mentioned on page 205, this is proving to be one of the best cultivars. Although eventually attaining a height of 3 or 4 ft, it flowers abundantly when only a foot high. Another point in its favour is that it flowers and comes into growth late in spring. The foliage is light green.

† cv. ‘Rosalinda’. – Of compact habit, to about 4 ft high and wide. Leaves dark green, glossy, brownish red when young. Flowers brown in the bud owing to the coloured calyces, in short trusses, pink when open and holding their colour well. Put into commerce by Messrs Grootendorst and Sons in 1976 (Dendroflora, loc. cit., pp. 41, 43). This received two stars in the Boskoop trials and is also rated highly by Mr Bond.

† cv. ‘Scarlett O’Hara’. – A very pretty white-flowered cultivar, of tall, slender habit.

† cv. ‘Valley Rose’. – A tall shrub of open habit; flowers silvery rose passing to almost white. Raised by Dr R. L. Ticknor at the North Willamotte Research Station of the University of Oregon, by crossing two locally grown pink-flowered clones. It was awarded three stars in the Boskoop trials but is unassessed at Windsor, where there is only a small plant (1986).

† cv. ‘White Cascade’. – A promising cultivar of recent introduction to Britain, with large, dark green, glossy leaves, yellowish brown when young, bearing unusually long trusses of pure white flowers. Raised in the USA. It was awarded three stars in the Boskoop trials and is one of the finest in the Windsor collection.



Other species in the genus