Hardhack is a pinkish-purple beauty, a wetland shrub with a mass of fuzzy pink flowers. This tough and reliable shrub is ideal for a wild garden where a leggy and somewhat untamed plant will be allowed to thrive.
What is Hardhack?
Hardhack is a spiraea, a member of the rose family. Its formal name is Spiraeadouglasii.
Many plants and animals in the Pacific Northwest were named after David Douglas, an early explorer in the area. The flowers grow in a long cluster, bunching together to look like pink fuzz. They vary in color from light pink to a deep pinkish-purple. The flowers have a peculiar scent, reminiscent of potpourri left in a drawer. Its leaves are long and somewhat egg-shaped.
How to Grow Douglasii
This spiraea is a sturdy plant. Hardback will grow in sun to part shade and tolerates a wide range of soil pH. Its only requirement is that hardhack loves moist soil. It’s fast growing, and if left to its own devices in a suitable location, hardhack will grow into a nearly impenetrable thicket. Find it in wetland areas in the Pacific Northwest of North America, growing around the fringes of streams and marshes. This shrub can grow up to two meters high.
Since the plant is so vigorous, propagating it from suckers in the spring seems to be the most logical method of propagation, though Plants for a Future does suggest that it can be started from seed in a cold frame.
Hardhack is a Useful Plant
Hardhack’s branches are thick and wiry, perhaps leading to its common name. For those who are interested in using the plant, its branches can form tough wreaths and brooms. They were used as implements by indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. Nancy Turner’s Thompson Ethnobotany (1990) states that an infusion of the seeds can be used to halt diarrhea. The branches are the most useful part of the plant, and they have been used to make brooms, hang salmon to smoke, and string clams for roasting.
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Using Hardhack to Attract Wildlife
The dense shrub forest created by a group of hardhack plants makes a good place for wetland birds to nest. Bees also love the fuzzy flowers. For those who live by the edge of a forest, grouse are said to be attracted to the dried flowers.
Hardhack is a vigorous and leggy plant well-suited suited to the wild wetland garden. Plant it at the side of a stream and let its beautiful flowers and fragrance adorn the side of the water garden. Give it some space, and hardhack will act as a great backdrop to a native plant garden in the Pacific Northwest.