LOCAL FORSYTHIA opened fully this last week, but even if they hadn’t, I’d already be on my eighth species of spring-flowering shrub, happily surrounded by delicate blossoms, some of which are even fragrant. My best early blooming shrubs you may wish to invite into your home landscape, too, with a slideshow:
Remember: I’m all about the 365-day garden, even here in Zone 5B in the Hudson Valley of New York State, where frost happens in May and again in October. By planting extra-early (and extra-late) showoffs, including shrubs that flower at one extreme end of the season or get fiery foliage or fruit at the other (or maybe have great bark or structure when “naked”), I stretch the season to fill the calendar with visual treats.
The woody-plant bloom schedule begins here in late January to mid-February, weather depending (update: in 2014 it was late March instead!), and by late April look at what has already happened, or is currently under way or about to pop. Follow the green links to the full plant portraits from the archives or another reference:
- Witch-hazel, Hamamelis. Bloomed from late January through early April this year; the most defiant of all shrubs.
- Pussy willows, Salix species. Great range of catkin colors and sizes, appealing to bees and other early pollinators.
- Winter honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima (photo above). A somewhat rangy but easy shrub that blooms extra-early with welcome lemony fragrance from whitish blooms.
- Spicebush, Lindera benzoin and others. Blooms in March and April; wonderful gold fall foliage; small fruit of interest to wildlife.
- Cornelian cherry, Cornus mas (photo below). Blooms throughout April, then produces wildlife-friendly red fruit.
- Winter-hazel, Corylopsis spicata. April bloomer, on a wide, irregular-shaped mostly horizontal shrub with beautiful foliage. Related to Fothergilla and witch-hazel.
- February daphne, Daphne mezereum. Little-grown but very early (usually in the end of March here or first bit of April. Purple or white blooms, very fragrant.
- Leatherwood, Dirca palustris. A native shrub shaped like a miniature tree, with tiny tassled yellow blooms in April. Charming.
- Shadbush, Amelanchier
- Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’
- Quince, Chaenomeles
- Koreanspice viburnum, Viburnum carlesii
Bottom-line advice: When you go to the garden center this spring, don’t just bring home what’s in peak form that day. Do your research before shopping, or ask at the garden center to be directed to what was looking good in February or March—or what promises to be fabulous in December. The garden will thank you.
the slideshow of early shrubs
CLICK THE FIRST thumbnail to start the slides, then use your keyboard arrows (or the arrows on each photo) to toggle from image to image.