Issai Stachyurus. There is something about this genus that totally infatuates me. Dr. Michael Dirr in his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants has said, "S. praecox is an enigmatic shrub with an element of mystery and beauty that few gardeners know anything about." Without a doubt, it ranks as one of my Top 10 (if not top 5), favorite shrubs. It is a deciduous, woodland shrub which has hanging racemes of yellow flowers, in February and March, at almost every node of the previous year's growth. These unusual Asian species grow mostly in Japan and China. The botanical name literally means "spiked tail," alluding to the flowering appendage which is a hanging raceme of anywhere from a few inches up to over 2' long that I have measured in the South Carolina Botanical Garden at Clemson University. Most are 6-12" in length and are lined with small yellow inverted, cap-like flowers. But the effect that one gets in late winter with the cascading racemes of soft yellow flowers is surreal. This particular cultivar 'Issai' has racemes up to 12" long and may have as many as 3 or 4 racemes at each node. 'Issai' means "first or number one" in Japanese and is a cultivar name given to a selection which is the best of its species. Japanese nurserymen have told me that one criterion for this name is that the selection must fruit or flower within two years of propagation. And that is true with this cultivar, because a plant will be covered in flower buds in its first year; whereas, if one just plants the species, it may take a number of years to begin setting flower buds. It has a spreading, arching habit of growth which may reach 6-8' with a greater spread. "mitsuzakii" is a subspecies from further south in Japan and has larger leaves and flowers and a somewhat more vigorous growth habit. The grace of the hanging racemes in full flower in late winter is hard to describe. It does best in filtered sun or possibly morning sun and afternoon shade with adequate moisture. But be warned, this is also one of our deer's to ten favorites as well. The last picture is compliments of Mike Chelednik.