Lavishly lathered with blue flower trusses in spring, frost-tender wild lilacs (Ceanothus) are deceptively rugged. Their tough roots control erosion; their evergreen leaves are water-thrifty. In cold climes, plant deciduous, white-blossomed New Jersey tea.
Nosegay clusters of Daphne odora bear a sweet scent of mingled rose and anise in early spring. Daphnes, including the evergreen marginata with yellow-edged leaves, thrive in warm climes. Fragrant Viburnum carlesii is a fine cold-hardy alternative.
Doublefile viburnum grows in elegant, horizontal tiers decked with flat-topped flower clusters. Its spring scent, deep-green summer foliage, claret-colored fall leaves, and black fruit make Viburnum burkwoodii a year-round favorite.
Spring-flowering branches brighten homespun pitchers. The rich pink blossoms of flowering quince are a colorful standout. This cold-hardy shrub is ideal grown in rows as a prickly-limbed security hedge.
Pendant clusters of red blooms, blue-black berries, and felted leaves made Ribes sanguineum a turn-of-the-century favorite. Due a comeback, the 4- to 12-foot native grows in sun or light shade.
Lush-blooming spireas are rewarding additions to any sunny garden. Snowmound spirea blooms in spring and boasts a compact habit primed for tucking in among perennials in a mixed border.
The creamy hues of fragrant lily-of-the-valley bush florets (Pieris japonica, not pictured) can provide gentle contrast with the brilliant blossoms of Korean azalea (right). These plants are cousins and good companions, since each thrives in fertile, moist, acidic soil.
The glossy-leaved evergreen pieris, draped with frothy flower clusters, is well worth pampering. Ply it with acidic soil and ample water to help it reach its 7-foot potential. Plant it in protected niches in the North to shield early spring blossoms from late frost.
Holly-like leaves, brilliant yellow flower trusses, blue-black fruit, and bronzy winter color place Mahonia in the limelight each season. Since this native evergreen spreads (in moist soil) to form broad colonies, it's a great screen or foundation plant.