Spring in the Garden

    • Primroses, in their rainbow of colors, will light up your flower beds and boxes this winter and spring.
    • Potatoes can be planted any time now. Choose from red, white, yellow and blue varieties.
    • Clematis that bloomed last summer can be pruned now. Wait on spring-blooming varieties until after they bloom.
    • Roses should be pruned if you haven’t done so already. Remove all old leaves on and around the bushes and spray with a combination of lime-sulfur and dormant oil to prevent early pest and disease problems.
    • Bare root fruit trees, grape and berry vines, and ornamental trees and shrubs are still available.

Harbingers of Spring

One of the miracles of nature is the beautiful blossoms that burst out of the bare branches each spring. As the cold wet days of winter give way to an occasional bright sunny day, we know that spring is not far away.

Soon we will be greeted with a burst of yellow out of the drab winter landscape as the forsythia comes into bloom. At about the same time the flaming red bushes of flowering quince will stand out as they come to life once again. Sweet daphne is another early bloomer, perfuming the neighborhood with its lovely, citrus-like fragrance. Odd-looking witchhazel takes it’s place in the landscape and bridalwreath spiraea sprays out in a fountain of white.

Few plants make such a dazzling show as forsythia. The flowers are borne so profusely on the upright to slightly arching branches that from a distance they look like long solid spikes of yellow. Forsythia is an easy shrub to grow. It does best in sun but tolerates light shade. It can grow to eight feet tall so give it room. Thin it out after blooming by cutting older stems down to the ground to keep the bush open and free of dead wood.

Flowering quince is well-liked for its showy spring bloom and it makes a fine hedge plant. They are very sturdy and drought tolerant. The bright red flowers and red-tinged new foliage are very attractive. In addition to the common red variety, there are a number of hybrids that show-off each spring in white, pink, and soft apricot pink. The low-growing types stay in the 2-3 feet range while the tall ones grow to 6-8 feet.

Daphne is certainly a prized plant for those who like fragrance in the garden. This evergreen shrub with glossy green or green and white leaves grows about four feet tall, spreading wider. The pink or white flowers give off a heady fragrance. Give them half day sun and good drainage. They will not tolerate soggy soil.

Another early blooming shrub is witchhazel. Its odd but attractive, spidery flowers give off a sweet fragrance. Overall, the plant has a twisted appearance, with branches veering off in all directions. Forked witchhazel twigs were used, in fact, as divining rods in the practice of “water witching,” hence the shrub’s curious name. Although most witchhazel flowers are a sulfur-yellow, those of the variety ‘Diana’ are a deep, coppery red.

Spiraea prunifolia, or bridalwreath, produces the lacy flowers so often used in old-fashioned wedding bouquets. Blooming just after the yellow forsythia, its tiny, double white flowers are borne on graceful, arching branches for about three weeks in spring. In fall, its slender leaves turn a lustrous orange. This shrub thrives in full sun or light shade and should be planted in well-drained soil.

When these “harbingers of spring” unfurl their pretty blossoms, it means spring is right around the corner.

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