After the latest go-round with snowy weather, I went out with my three dogs and wandered around the backyard. My sweet Lucy, now nearly blind, followed her beagle nose on a meandering path to the patio, where I stood admiring buds on my “Sensation” lilac.
“Quick, Lucy, name your five favorite spring-flowering shrubs …” I said. Hearing my voice, she looked at me, turned around and walked down the path, stopping at the flowering quince. Wow, how’s that for training?
Every landscape needs one — two or five — spring-flowering shrubs. Here’s my list of five favorites:
1. Lilac. New lilac varieties incorporate the best traits — fragrance, hardiness and longevity — and have fewer of the worst ones, like suckering. Generally, these shrubs are slow growing plants that need a sunny, well-drained location. Keep nitrogen-rich lawn fertilizers away from lilacs and their root system because nitrogen encourages green growth, not flowers.
In 2019, in Proven Winners will introduce two new dwarf “Bloomerang” reblooming lilacs in pink and purple, as well as “Double Blue” in the “Scentara” series, a lilac that promises to “knock your socks off” with fragrance.
2. Flowering quince. You’re missing out on a gorgeous spring shrub if there’s not a flowering quince from the “Double Take” series in your yard. I planted “Scarlet Storm” and “Orange Storm” from the series five years ago. They are now fully mature plants, and “Scarlet Storm,” in particular, is a stunner. Rich scarlet flowers bloom from the tip of the stem to the bottom and last for days. It’s a tough plant in a well-drained, sunny to partially sunny location.
3. Ninebark. Hybridized common ninebark can grow quite large — from 5 to 10 feet tall and as wide. There also are dwarf ninebarks for smaller spaces, including “ “Tiny Wine” with bronze foliage tinged with maroon and “Little Devil,” with burgundy-purple leaves.
Coming in 2019 is “Summer Wine Black” with nearly black foliage and white flower clusters, and “Festivus Gold,” a semi-dwarf ninebark with bright yellow foliage and white flowers in spring.
4. Hydrangea. What’s not to love about hydrangeas? Every season brings a new generation of these beauties in new colors, sizes and forms. Any variety for Zone 5 would be a wonderful addition. Some of my favorites are “Limelight,” “Incrediball,” “Fire Light,” “Ruby Slippers” … the list is too long.
5. Weigela. Adaptable to most well-drained soils, these shrubs have funnel-shaped flowers and a lovely form. There are about 200 cultivars, but my favorites are “Wine & Roses,” that reaches 4 to 6 feet tall, and the smaller “Spilled Wine,” about 3 feet tall. Foliage is deep burgundy, and flowers are pink.