Pictured at right-double flowered Kerria japonica planted on the east side of Duke’s Nello Teer Engineering Library.
Kerria japonica is one of my favorite shrubs. It is in the rose family and has a wonderful litany of common names (kerry rose, Easter rose, Japanese kerria, Japanese tea rose, and yellow rose of Texas). It is an old-fashioned plant that folks love to divide and give away. One of the reasons for its popularity is the early flowers. They bloom just before before the waves of roses, dogwoods, and azaleas grab everyone’s attention around here.
In the landscape, you can find it growing in partly shady to sunny spots. Mine does fine with that difficult morning-shade-afternoon-sizzle equation which often ruins azaleas and hydrangeas in central and southeastern North Carolina. They can form a thicket up to six feet tall but unlike forsythia or winter honeysuckle, it does not seem to turn into a monster. After it loses its leaves in the fall the thin crayon-green branches are very attractive and airy. It survives drought once established and can be found in double-flowering and single flowered forms. Old thickets of kerria have a tendency to look a bit scraggly if the oldest canes are not cut down. Like a lot of other flowering shrubs, any pruning should be done after the blooms give out.
Call it kerry rose or yellow rose of easter or whatever you want to; Kerria japonica would make a very popular shrub if homeowners could find it more easily ….or if more of us gave some away from our own yards. Here is a link to Chapel Hill’s Niche Gardens’ online catalog. It shows the beautiful single flowered version that they have for sale.