Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Flowering Shrubs

As many bloggers have commented, this spring everything seems to be blooming at once. Shrubs whose bloom periods would normally extend from April through May are all in flower now. Here are some shrubs I've spotted blooming around town:

Fothergilla gardenii
Fothergilla is one of my favorite flowering shrubs. In this shot, taken a couple weeks ago, the honey-scneted flowers are just beginning to open:
Fothergilla gardenii - emerging flowers

And here it is now in full white fuzzy glory. You can see the leaves are coming on as well.
Fothergilla gardenii
 Fothergilla gardenii stays fairly small. I planted the larger type, fothergilla major, in my garden last spring. It grew well and had absolutely brilliant orange fall color, but unfortunately got eaten to the ground by rodents over the winter. The stub hasn't shown any signs of regrowth yet, so I'll have to replant. That's OK, I'll try again and protect it better this time - I must have this plant!

Rhododendron 'PJM'
Rhododendron 'PJM'
The 'PJM' series of rhododendrons were in full bloom last week, and are starting to fade already now. These are evergreen rhodos with small, narrow leaves. Personally, I find the color a bit lurid, but a plant of this in full bloom will certainly grab your attention in early spring. Not many rhodos do well in my part of the country (with heavy clay soil, alkaline ph, and very cold winters), so you've got to give this guy credit for being such a trooper. The leaves of the 'PJM' series turn an attractive burgundy color in winter as well, unlike the truly evergreen large-leaved Finnish series of rhodos - the other group that can handle our conditions. The Finns bloom quite a bit later. If I can find a 'PJM' type whose color doesn't make me cringe (perhaps 'Olga Mezzitt'?), I'd like to add one of these to my garden, perhaps under the amelanchier.

Viburnum carlesii (Koreanspice viburnum)
Viburnum carlesii
The viburnums began to display their pink buds a couple weeks ago and are in their full glory now. The streets are filled with their heavy, spicy perfume. I just love them. Ordinarily they would bloom here in early May. They have outstanding fall color as well:
Viburnum carlesii fall color
I hope to plant one of these in my yard in the future, once my daughter gets too old for the gigantic swingset which currently occupies this spot.

Tree peonies - NOT!

One interesting thing I noticed: all sorts of things that normally bloom in May are blooming 4-6 weeks early this year - Canadian redbud, crabapples, viburnum, fothergilla, lilac... Normally, these would overlap in bloom with the tree peonies. However, the tree peonies, while they have put on an appropriate amount of growth for the time of year and are covered in buds, show no signs of budging an inch in terms of bloom time.
Tree peonies to world: "We will not be rushed!"
There is a legend about a Chinese empress who ordered the royal horticulturalists to use their gardenly arts to force a variety of flowers to bloom in winter for her. All the flowers obliged the empress's order, except the tree peony. Stubborn fellows! Hopefully no horticulturalists lost their heads over this affair, because it was obviously not the humans' fault.


  1. Lovely blooms. I have never seen a fothergilla, but it is gorgeous! Funny story about the peonies. They must bloom according to daylight hours instead of soil temperature - or some other mysterious thing!

  2. I love viburnums and can't resist rhodos!


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