Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spring Gifts for the Garden

This is the third and final installment of favorite spring plants my gardening and nursery friends shared with me. I hope you’re inspired to give something new a try (look at the grape hyacinth!) or find a spot for something that’s been in the nursery trade for awhile, because you can’t go wrong with Sarcococca and Dawn Viburnum. Enjoy spring! I hope your garden brings you a plethora of joy.

Kate Bryant, Kate Bryant Gardening LLC and Portland Monthly’s garden blogger – This unusual grape hyacinth (Muscari macrocarpum 'Golden Fragrance') has a completely irresistible and powerful scent that tantalizingly fuses gardenia with sweet, candied tropical fruit! To capture the fragrance and keep it close, grow them in small terra cotta pots. Long, slightly twisted, blue-green leaves will appear, looking dapper and interesting over the winter. Bring pots indoors around late-February: fat spikes will emerge, developing into spires of tubular florets the color of slightly green bananas, topped with a crown of smoky purple florets. The effect is captivating! You can also plant them in clumps outdoors (they thrive in a warm, sunny spot and are cold-hardy to Zone 4), where they flower at the end of March/early April. Don't forget to pick a few blossoms to enjoy indoors. Muscari macrocarpum 'Golden Fragrance' is often available at garden centers in spring in pots, as well as bulbs in autumn.

Mike Darcy, In the Garden with Mike Darcy on 750KXL – Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ (common name is Coast Silk Tassel) is a large, evergreen native that is easy care once established. It needs little or no water, takes sun and also some shade, and offers cream-colored 10-inch long blooms. What’s not to like? It’s a great evergreen shrub even for a small garden (it is easily pruned).

P. Annie Kirk, Red Bird Design – Requisite for certain is Viburnum 'Pink Dawn' (Viburnum x bodnantense 'Pink Dawn'). A close second is Ms. Jelena Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'). Then for a little secret scent attack - bam! - fragrant Sweet Box (Sarcococca ruscifolia). For a great bridge and relentless 'pop', I like a spring sprinkle of Evergold Carex (Carex oshimensis 'Evergold').

Linda Shively, Farmington Gardens and YGP Exhibitor (Booth #978) – I love Daphne odora ‘Marginata’ for many reasons. First of all, it is a broadleaf evergreen shrub, so it holds it gorgeous variegated leaves all year long. I really love that in the winter. But then in early spring (or late winter) it begins blooming with the most sweet-smelling blossoms. It will get to a mature height of 3-4 feet, with a slightly wider spread, making it a nice-sized shrub. It can be just little a sensitive to transplanting, so decide carefully where you will put it so it won’t have to be moved. It likes good drainage and a bit of afternoon shade. Ideally, you want to place it where you walk by it every day so that you get maximum enjoyment out of the fragrance! One of my favorite things in spring is to bring a few sprigs into the house.

Peter Eastman, Fairdale Nursery – Magnolias, magnolias magnolias! They are the Queens of the early spring garden. There are so many to choose from, old stand bys to brand new hybrids. If I had to narrow it down, here’s the list: Magnolia ‘Vulcan’ is still the best flowered magnolia on the market for pure richness of color and great form. ‘Vulcan’ is one of several wonderful magnolias from Mark Jury in New Zealand. I am always in awe of the pure ruby color on this selection. When it is in flower it stands out like a neon sign. The tree maintains a nice pyramidal form and can be used as a small street tree to great effect. This selection flowers at quite a young age. Other favorites include Magnolia maudiae, Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’, Magnolia ‘Lolanthe’ and Magnolia denudate.

Sarah Smith, The GardensmithRhododendron ‘Snow Lady’ (R. leucaspis × R. ciliatum) is one of my favorite shrubs. It looks great year round with bright olive green leaves covered in little hairs that shout out “fondle me!” It has small white flowers which in my Milwaukie garden bloom in early March. It is a small grower, about 3-4 feet tall and wide, and will bloom well in bright shade. The only drawback I see to it is if we have a hard freeze in late winter, flowers can be lost, but the foliage still looks great.

Anne Taylor, Living Elements Landscape and designer of the YGP beverage gardens – Euphorbia x martinii 'Ascot Rainbow' looks great all the time, even in winter. The only time it looked not so great was during the week of cold. The plant looked cold. When it warmed up, it looked like it never missed a beat! I have had this plant for two years (it was one of the new plant varieties) and it is fantastic! Another early plant I LOVE is the snow drops (Galanthus nivalis); they make my heart weep, they are so tender, sweet, lovely, and strong to make it and push themselves up so early in the year.

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