By Andrew Bunting
PHS Vice President, Public Horticulture
Spring Flowering Shrubs
This is one of my favorite times of the garden year. The garden begins to awaken by early spring with bulbs such as snowdrops, Galanthus; Siberian squills, Scilla siberica, glory-of-the-snow, Chionodoxa luciliae; daffodils, Narcissus; early flowering magnolias and forsythia. It is also a great time of year for a host of other early spring flowering shrubs.
First to Arrive
Blooming now in my garden is the earliest of the spiraea to flower. Generally, spirea tend to bloom in April, if not, May, but the Thunberg Spirea typically flowers in the middle of March. I chose Spiraea thunbergii Mellow Yellow™ for its narrow yellow or chartreuse leaves which are now just emerging, as well as an incredible abundance of small white flowers which cover the shrub. It grows best in full sun but will tolerate a bit of shade. Once it is finished flowering it will flaunt its chartreuse-yellow foliage, which combines nicely with purple-foliaged shrubs like the smokebush, Cotinus coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak’ or one the purple-leaved ninebarks, Physocarpus opulifolius Diablo™.
New on the Scene
A relatively new flowering shrub that has grown in popularity over the last 15 years is the Chinese Paper Bush, Edgeworthia papyrifera. Edgeworthia is a relative to Daphne. Many daphne are also spring flowering and many have intensely fragrant flowers. Edgeworthia is a rounded shrub reaching up to six feet tall and wide at maturity. In the fall, clusters of fuzzy, silver-white flower buds give ornamental winter interest. In March, there is an abundance of tubular white flowers with yellow tips which are very fragrant as well.
Small Space Perfection
A great spring-flowering shrub for the smaller garden is the Lilac Daphne, Daphne genkwa. While it is not fragrant like other daphnes, it makes up for this with a profusion of flowers. The stems are covered in small, smokey lilac-purple flowers. It truly looks like a small lilac shrub but blooms four to six weeks earlier than most lilacs. At maturity, the Lilac Daphne will reach six feet tall with a spread of three feet, making it a perfect choice for the garden with limited space.