Planning For a Multi-Season Garden (Part I)
Punxutawney Phil recently predicted an early spring. This is only the 19thtime in the past 133 years that that this famed groundhog has predicted an early spring according to NPR https://www.npr.org/2019/02/02/690926238/groundhog-day-2019-punxsutawney-phil-predicts-an-early-spring. I don't know about you, but as a gardener I couldn't be happier. Besides, winter's not really my season anyway and we haven't even had subzero temperatures like the mid-west has!
As I sit here and write this blog, I dream of warmer days and all the wonderful colors that come with summer!
It's not so bad. Winter does bring with it a variety of it's own shapes and colors – provided you've planned for a multi-season garden. It's hard to think about temperatures below freezing on a nice warm June day, but with a little planning, you could be well rewarded. Trees and shrubs -even those that are deciduous, extend the growing season of your landscape by providing your garden with structure and color that may sometimes get overshadowed by bold summer color. The best part of adding trees and shrubs to your landscape is that you can extend the growing season and still have a nice landscape even in the dead of winter. Color and texture is easy to achieve if you plan ahead, and with the right plants – you'll be glad you did!
At the end of a cold winter, not too many things can be more refreshing than the sight of flowers! Virtually everyone is familiar with Forsythia. Very common to the New England area, it's often overlooked. Forsythia is a wonderful indication of spring! When the temperatures hit 55 degrees, the forsythia will bloom, and this is a great indication that it's time to put down a pre-emergent on your lawn.
Here are some great shrubs I love that flower early and will really make your spring garden come alive...just when you need color the most.
Andromeda(Pieris) is a fantastic shrub for any landscape! Small cup-like flower clusters come inwhite, pink and red. However, Andromeda is an evergreen shrub which makes it nice for winter, but even better are the size varieties! Pieris comes small – Pieris 'Little Heath' which reaches only 18” -24” or they come tall such as Pieris 'Flaming Silver' which can reach up to 8' tall. There are many varities that average out at 5 feet.
Flowering Quince is a multi-stemmed deciduous shrub that blooms early in spring before leafing out. These shrubs produce beautiful double flowers. Unlike the Flowering Quince of our parents generation, these current modern-day shrubs have no thorns. This shrub produces fragrant flowers with a somewhat spicy aroma in colors of red, white, orange or pink.
Japanese Kerria Sometimes also referred to as Japanes Rose, this is without a doubt one of my absolute favorite early spring blooming shrubs. This shrub does double duty as a shrub with winter interest as well. Single or double yellow flowers blanket the shrub in spring for up to as long as 6 weeks! It's beautiful green bark is visible all season and makes for great winter interest. This shrub does best in partial to full sun and gets between 5-10 feet. I realize this sounds like quite a range, and some of the size of this shrub will depend on the conditions it's planted in. It gets taller in full sun, however, it adapts very readily to pruning if you have a sunny spot you'd like to put it in where if allowed to reach full height would be a little too large.
Korean Spice Viburnum This is a shrub I have another love affair with. Clusters of white flowers with a slight hint of pink blush form small pom-pom like blooms and emit a fragrance that is certainly heady. I am frequently known to stop whatever I'm doing and meander over to a Korean Spice in bloom. This is a great shrub if you're a bird fan as well. Later in the season this shrub produces a nice crop of small berries that transform from red in the summer to a lovely dark, almost black hue in the fall and add interest to the autumn garden. I love shrubs that have interest in multiple seasons! You can't go wrong! This is another shrub on the larger size growing from 4-6 feet. This viburnum prefers a sunny location, but like the Kerria, responds well to pruning.
ForsythiaI know, who doesn't know about forsythia, right? They're often found in many yards and even growing wild along the roadsides. I think because they grow wild, they are somewhat overlooked. When pruned like any other shrub, they become thickly covered with tons of yellow flowers in the spring. A sure sign that spring is definitely here!
Pussy Willow (Salix Discolor) is a shrub that takes me back to my childhood. Playing outside as a young girl, I used to love when the pussy willows started to bloom! Fuzzy, gray catkins are a sure sign of spring. Even though they have catkins, not flowers, it's still something different and fun and can be a great compliment to some of the other spring blooming shrubs. Here's an interesting fact about Pussy Willows. Pussy Willows are dioecious, meaning there are male plants and female plants. The female plants display more greenish colored catkins which, although fuzzy, they're not quite the same as their male counterparts. These shrubs are fairly nondescript outside their catkins, and unlike some other shrubs we've discussed, have no other seasonal interest. They're still among my favorite though. I look at them knowing that the long, dark winter is at an end when they burst forth with those unique catkins.
Azalea. While there are a great many azaleas out there, most people gravitate toward the evergreens. While those are nice and come in a variety of colors, one of my favorite azaleas is deciduous. Northern Highlights is an azalea that shouldn't be overlooked. Upright stems display big buds at branch endings that absolutely explode into bloom in early May with trusses of fragrant yellow and white blossoms. This azalea also displays incredible red fall foliage This shrub is a very hardy shrub and prefers light shade. Another shrub that provides beauty in more than one season, Northern Highlights is my personal favorite, but there are a lot of really nice deciduous azaleas. They have larger blooms than their evergreen counterparts, so be sure to give some thought to adding these into your landscape!