Column, Looking Back

It’s almost bloom time!

By Mary Ellen Shaw

Well, we are inching closer to seeing some blooms on plants, shrubs and trees. When they appear it will mean that garden season is just around the corner.

Every March I look for the first blossoms in my garden and snowdrops never disappoint me. Their green stems poke through the snow and their white petals “drop” down toward the ground. I am always amazed that they are there to greet me every year in spite of the sub-zero days and the mounds of snow that they were buried under.

Hellebores (Lenten rose) are the next flowers to bloom in my garden. That happens in April. This plant likes partial shade and is taller than the snowdrop. Its petals also face downward. There are color choices for this perennial. I have both rose and cream colored hellebores. I like to cut some and put them in a vase with a few gold cypress branches that nicely support the hellebores and make them stand out. Nothing beats seeing a vase of flowers from your garden when there is still snow on the ground! Because my plants get only early morning sun they remain in bloom into June if the weather stays on the cool side.

I am always happy to see a pop of color and the yellow forsythia bush doesn’t disappoint. If you are anxious to see this “ray of sunshine” you can cut some branches before the buds have actually blossomed. Bring them inside. Put them in a vase with water and they will soon be in bloom. The blossoms should last five to seven days in a vase.

A flowering shrub that is often overlooked is quince. That may be because the older varieties have thorns but the newer ones do not. April is the month you will find it in bloom. If you would like to add one to your yard the Double Take series are quite compact at 3- 4 feet in width and height. They do not have thorns and produce double blossoms in pink, peach, orange or scarlet. This variety of quince doesn’t produce fruit but some varieties do. Texas Scarlet is one option if you are looking for a quince bush with fruit that you can use for jelly. Its fiery red color will brighten your landscape.

By the time you get into May the rhododendrons and azalea bushes will be in bloom. Some color options are white, yellow, pink, red and lavender/blue shades. If you want to control their height they should be pruned directly after flowering so that you don’t cut off next year’s flowers. We have some rhododendrons on our property line which I have let grow for privacy. They are now about 8 feet tall.

Dogwoods are interesting because they range from ground covers to trees. There is a gray dogwood (cornus racemosa) that can form a thicket about 10 feet in height and has white flowers. This variety has late summer berries that are also white. An added bonus is that the birds love them.

Another option for a spring flowering shrub is viburnum. The Korean spice variety has large pink flowers. Its height is controlled at 5-6 feet and its dull green foliage turns a bright red in the fall.

As spring turns into summer one of the last flowering shrubs is the lilac bush. The fragrance can’t be beat! The purple shades are probably the most popular but they also come in yellow, white and pink. Lilacs also are available in a re-blooming variety which will blossom both in early and late summer.

There is a lot to look forward to once the blooming season begins. Even if you aren’t growing any of these plants or shrubs yourself, enjoy the ones that others have planted. We need to observe some color after months of looking at the ground covered in white!

In a future column I will take a look at bulb flowers that will begin to appear in about a month.

Enjoy the upcoming blooms!

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