Plant of the Week: DOUBLE PLAY® BLUE KAZOO® Spirea

If your image of Spiraea is a little muffin of a plant with bright flowers and sometimes brighter foliage, think again. While other varieties sometimes seem to be trying too hard, Double Play® Blue Kazoo® spirea is effortlessly cool.

Sure, it’s a tidy, mounded plant, but the branching is more graceful and relaxed. The foliage of this Spiraea media is a little bigger than that of Spiraea japonica, and what delightful foliage it is! Cool blue-green leaves are tinged with red in the new growth and then red foliage in the fall.

Add some crisp white flowers in the summer, and you’ve got a great addition to landscapes in USDA 3-8. This winter, I was talking to a landscaper in Montana, and this was a favorite of hers. If it’s tough enough for Montana, that’s saying something!

At just 2-3′ tall and wide, this plant is a nice size for foundation plantings. It will grow in full sun or part shade and, like other spirea, has good deer resistance. And an added bonus, hummingbirds love those white flowers!

What’s in a name?

When we get a plant from a breeder, it likely already has a working cultivar name, which was “unofficially” referred to above as the breeder cultivar name.

Dr. Johan Van Huylenbroeck standing in front of a hydrangea

In some cases, those names stick. Such was the case with the panicle hydrangea Pinky Winky®. The Belgian breeder, Dr. Johan Van Huylenbroeck, dedicated the shrub to his son, who’s a big fan of the cartoon Teletubbies, and from that, the hydrangea Pinky Winky® was born. 

However, most of the time, the fun and fanciful names you see on plant tags are the trade names that brands choose when it is introduced. Those names are trademarked to protect the hard work of the breeder and to ensure that when a gardener buys a spirea like Double Play® Blue Kazoo®, it has the same strong genetics as others with the same name.

Finding an appropriate trade name for a new plant is not simple, nor does the marketing and breeding team take the responsibility lightly. A new cultivar can be lifted up by a good name or sunk by a bad one.

A shrub’s ornamental qualities, such as flowers, foliage, habit, or an outstanding performance characteristic, could offer clues to what it might be named. Some plant names, such as At Last® rose, are simple to associate with marketing efforts. At Last® is one of the first roses to combine the fragrance and look of hybrid tea roses with the easy care of a shrub rose. “At last, a fragrant, disease-resistant rose!” 

But it’s not always quite that simple.

Sometimes you think you have come up with a perfect name only to discover you can’t get a trademark on that name, and you have to start over. Sometimes this even happens after a plant is introduced. Ground HugAronia was introduced as Ground Hog Aronia, but the trademark was unavailable. Changing a name after the plant is introduced is not our favorite thing to do, but we feel the trademark is necessary to maintain the integrity of the cultivar.

So what’s in a name? As it turns out, a lot! 

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