Flashy golden forsythias and splashy pink saucer magnolia take center stage in many early spring landscapes. But these leading ladies aren’t the only shrubs that can make an impact in your yard at this time of year. Many other woody plants are worthwhile additions for their vernal display of showy blooms. If you’re looking for something a little more unique, consider one of the beauties shown below.
By late February nearly everyone is ready for spring to arrive. Cloudy, gloomy days bring a yearning for the bright colors and happy thoughts of spring. You can speed the process along by forcing flowering branches indoors. Even in a mild winter such as this one, by now most spring-flowering shrubs have received enough hours of cold to break dormancy once warm temperatures arrive. You can trick them into blooming early by cutting stems with plump buds (flower buds are thicker and rounder than leaf buds), and taking them into the warmth of your home.
Prune off pencil-width stems full of buds. Plunge the base of cut stems into warm water after stripping buds from the portion of the stem that will be under water. Keep the cut twigs at room temperature or slightly cooler to force them into flower. Change the water twice per week to keep it fresh. Within a few days to several weeks, depending on the time of winter and species of flowering shrub, your spring-in-a-vase will burst into bloom–an event that’s sure to bring smiles to the faces of those who see it.
Trees and shrubs that bloom earliest outdoors are the easiest and fastest to force indoors. Forsythia, flowering quince, redbud, pussy willow, and serviceberry are good choices for first-time forcers. But crabapple, lilac, and kousa dogwood will work, too. They just take a little longer.
This year I’m getting a jump on spring by forcing forsythia branches. The shrub needed pruning anyway. Rather than tossing the branches in the woodchip pile, I decided to enjoy them in flower first. I’m having fun watching the progression of swelling buds, and can hardly wait for the first bud to burst into full flower.
Today’s post is in honor of Love a Tree Day, which happens on May 16th every year. (Who knew?) I would write about my favorite tree, but that’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. I have dozens of favorites.
With ash trees under attack by emerald ash borer, American elms barely hanging on against Dutch elm disease, and American chestnuts all but wiped out by chestnut blight, I feel that it’s important to create diversity by planting a wide variety of trees.
I’ve taken that to heart in my own landscape. On my half-acre lot I have planted the following trees: a callery pear, a serviceberry, five Alberta spruces, three Austrian pines, three Eastern white pines, a sweetbay magnolia, a Japanese tree lilac, a goldenrain tree, five arborvitaes, eight upright junipers, a dawn redwood, a Vanderwolf limber pine, a black gum, a blue Colorado spruce, a red maple, a weeping European beech, an Eastern redbud, a shingle oak, a ginkgo, a Swiss stone pine, a kousa dogwood, and I’ve allowed a squirrel-seeded bur oak to grow in one of the perennial beds.
I’ll admit to punishing several “problem children”. Self-seeded cottonwoods, hackberries, chokecherries, box elders, and willows are removed from my flowerbeds where they all too often take root. I also dig out sprouting black walnuts that the ambitious squirrels bury in the planting beds.
After six years of planting, I think that my lot is about full enough of trees. I still want sunny areas for growing veggies and sun-loving flowers. So from now on, new trees will have to be dwarf. I’m envisioning dwarf conifers in a new rock garden…..
Dogwoods are nature’s underdogs. So are the many other understory trees native to our woodlands, including serviceberry, wild plum, redbud, hawthorn, wahoo, and sassafras. The sheer size of cottonwood, sycamore, hickory, oak, and maple helps the towering giants win The Most Colorful contest in October. But shorter species offer big blessings, too. In the wild, their individual beauty often is disguised by the hovering limbs of tall neighbors, like schoolyard bullies showing little respect for personal space. By now, though, the big boys have reached their peak and bared their branches, allowing the small-fries of the forest and fencerows to show what they’re made of. They win me over, not just for the cute factor, but for their value in home landscaping. After all, smaller trees are a better fit for most backyards. Plus, many of these space-saving natives offer sweet spring blossoms, glorious fall foliage, and colorful fruits that wildlife can’t resist. The underdogs, in this case, have the last “bark.”