Harbingers of Spring

Friday, February 20th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Potatoes can be planted this month. Plant red, white, yellow and russet for a variety of uses and flavors.
    • Blueberries make delicious fruit on attractive plants that you can use in the orchard or the landscape. Choose varieties now.
    • Last chance to spray peach and nectarine trees for peach leaf curl before the buds break open. Use copper spray for the best results.
    • Plant bright and cheery primroses to brighten your flower beds and boxes.
    • Plant strawberry plants now for delicious strawberry shortcake this summer.

Harbingers of Spring

Spring is on its way – cold mornings give way to beautiful warm days, birds are building nests, and here and there, the beginning of spring’s colorful show of flowers can be seen. Some flowering plants are always the first to bloom in the spring and thereby signal its approach.

The very first shrub to bloom each year is witch hazel, Hamamelis. Their spidery petals are twisted and ribbon-like forming radiant yellow, coppery orange, or dark red flowers that are surprisingly fragrant. They are slow-growing but will become large shrubs if not kept smaller with pruning.

An added bonus is their beautiful fall show of yellow, purple, orange and red leaves. Grow witch hazel plants in full sun to part shade in well-drained soil. They are are nice in woodland gardens, but you’ll sacrifice some blooms if you don’t grow them in full sun.

Witch hazel has a special adaptation to cold: while a sunny day above freezing will pop the flower buds open, a sudden chill will cause the petals to roll up for protection, then, at the slightest hint of warmth, they unfurl again.

Flowering quince, Chaenomeles speciosa, is one of the first shrubs to greet us with a burst of color. This unassuming shrub blooms delightfully anytime from February through March with waxy flowers in shades of red-orange, rose, pink or white.

A deciduous shrub, it grows from 6 to 10 feet tall and spreads as wide. It is a twiggy, tangled, multi-stemmed plant that makes a good barrier or hedge. The 1-1/2 inch, apple-blossom-like flowers are borne in clusters and are quite showy for over a month. Flowering quince will tolerate a wide range of soil and site conditions, including dry sites. For best growth and flowering, plant in full sun.

Forsythia ‘Spring Glory’ is a deciduous shrub that explodes each February in brilliant masses of yellow flowers. Flowers are produced in groups or clusters along the stems. Leaves emerge shortly after flowering and are medium green in summer.

Plant it as a single specimen in an out-of-the-way place where it will be a burst of golden color then blend into the background for the rest of the season. It will grow to 6-8 feet tall and wide, and can be used as a screen.

Since they bloom on old wood, forsythias should be pruned immediately after flowering. Pruning the shrubs from mid-summer to late winter will drastically reduce flowering in spring. Plants are drought-tolerant once established.

The lovely winter daphne, Daphne odora, is one of the sweetest fragrances of spring. In February, clusters of pink buds appear at the tips of the stems that open into white or pale pink flowers that are intensely fragrant with a citrus-like odor.

The leaves of winter daphne can be solid green, or bordered with a pale yellow edge. It makes a very neat evergreen shrub year-round and grows to about four feet tall and at least as wide. Plant it in a spot where it gets protection from the hot mid-day sun and has good drainage.

Enjoy the harbingers of spring as the longer days bring new life to the natural world.

Easter Flowers

Monday, April 9th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Plant sunflowers now from seed. Choose either the multi-stemmed kinds for cut flowers or the giants for edible seeds.
    • Evergreen candytuft is a hardy perennial with bright white flowers set against dark green foliage. They bloom now and make a fine border plant.
    • Spring feeding of trees and shrubs can begin now. Mulch with manure or apply fish emulsion or commercial fertilizers.
    • Prepare for planting season! Turn in cover crops and do a soil test if your garden had trouble last year.
    • Plant sweet peas for bouquets of delightful blooms.

Look What’s Blooming for Easter!

The cold, wet weather has certainly slowed down gardening activities, but many of the early bloomers in the garden are doing their best to remind us that spring is not far away.

Daffodils are real troopers in this weather. Day after day, they hold their flowers up high against the weather beckoning the sunshine. A drift I saw at the base of a clump of white birch trees was especially cheerful. Grape hyacinths make a carpet of blue in my garden where they are impervious to the weather.

Forsythia branches covered with bright golden flowers standout in the garden, and so do the leaves of variegated Euonymus, which look particularly bright yellow at this time of year. Purple wallflower, Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’, now adds its bright mauve flowers to the springtime palette. And the slender, green stems of Kerria japonica are about to burst forth with their double yellow “Japanese rose” flowers. Is it any wonder that purple and yellow are “Easter colors”?

The Tulip Trees or saucer magnolias are coming into their glory. Their pink or purplish red blooms are 4-inches across or more, and they cover the branches of this beautiful small tree.  For the month that is in bloom it is extraordinary. 

Viburnum ‘Spring Bouquet’ is living up to its name, and is so beautiful right now, that you want to stop and see what that glorious plant is. This hardy, evergreen shrub should have a place in every garden. One of its close relatives, Viburnum burkwoodii, has fragrant white flowers that appear in early spring from dense clusters of 4″ pink buds. The upright, multi-stemmed shrub has an open habit that is very lovely in the shade garden.

Some varieties of Rosemary are now in full bloom. Their bright blue flowers are very attractive set against the dark green, aromatic leaves. Given good drainage, they are one of our toughest and most versatile plants.

Camellias are an old-fashioned shrub that has stood the test of time. Some older specimens, which were probably planted when the houses were built, are as tall as the eaves. Their perfectly formed red, pink or white flowers cover the plants in April and are an invitation to come enjoy their singular beauty.

Dainty azaleas are just beginning to bloom. These profuse flowering shrubs can be used as a low hedge, in borders or in massed planting for an impressive color display. The flowers come in pink, red, white, purple and lavender and cover the evergreen leaves while they are in bloom. It’s best to plant hardy varieties in our climate.

Eastre, the Teutonic Goddess of Fertility, is rich with promise and potential life. At this time of new beginnings, we look forward with hope to a bountiful growing season ahead.

Spring in the Garden

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • 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.