This is the Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora’) that is blooming in my front yard. When I first saw this plant last year on the UW campus, it quickly become one of my favorite shrubs. Growing under conifers in shade, the bright green stems arched up and around other plants, and the bright yellow flowers popped out like pure happiness. It tends too look best with a backdrop of shadows or dark evergreen needles but I would be tempted to try this in myriad locations. The buttery pom-poms, while garish to some (Gossler), are small enough that I don’t find them even slightly obnoxious. If you do, this member of the rose family has several cultivars with simpler flowers.
I’m not normally swayed by a shrub’s flowers, but bright yellow is hard to deny. (The only perennial I planted from seed this year was Coreopsis lanceolata.) But more than its color, I find the combination of the round, soft tufts and narrow, serrated leaves, to be an unusually complimentary pairing. Like a ready-made corsage.
Once the flowers fade and fall, it grows quickly throughout the summer but it doesn’t do much in the fall. No problem, because the green stems stay bright all year long and reach 8′, maybe higher. So just as you might buy red- or yellow-twig dogwoods for their winter stems, you can turn to kerria for a hit of pure green.
Over the winter, I picked up two on sale and added them to the one I planted last year, in order to create a loose screen from the road. The last picture shows one of the sparse new plants. Still, even on a solitary 5′ stem, the flowers draw out a spring smile and demonstrate how well this plant balances sun and shade.