By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Shrubs are the bones and building blocks of an exceptional landscape. Some are blessed with long bloom periods, others with flashy foliage, striking shapes, colorful winterberries for foraging birds, and some with evergreen qualities. By combining shrubs of varying attributes, homeowners can create dynamic landscapes that provide four seasons of interest with minimal maintenance. Gorgeous, easy-care year-round gardens are achievable, one plant at a time. This is the season when flowering species especially are in great demand. Here are my favorite eight spring show-offs.
Ballerina Indian Hawthorne is a shrub for every season. This low evergreen blooms profusely in spring and often repeats with an equally impressive fall showing. It’s super fragrant, rosy pink flowers produce small, dark berries. Growing to just knee high with equal width, this hardy shrub is both heat and drought tolerant once it’s established. With a neat, compact habit that rarely needs pruning, it’s an excellent selection for low maintenance gardens. This tidy little plant is tough enough to be planted right along the driveway but handsome enough for a container accent at the front door.
Home Run Roses are the never-ending bloomers. From spring until autumn transitions into winter, this 3-foot high shrub won’t stop blooming! No other shrub blooms longer. The new stems and leaves have purple hues that mature to a deep green for a non-stop show all season long. Anyone new to mountain gardening should start with these native shrub roses. Because they require no pruning to re-bloom and are disease and pest resistant, their value is assured. They are so difficult to kill that property investment companies are now using this blooming wonder in their landscapes.
Flowering Almond Be ready for a breath-taking explosion of double ruffled frothy pink flowers each and every spring! From March through April petite blooms cover the branches of this head high bloomer. Because of its small size, it’s a perfect focal point along a pathway, in groupings, or even in containers. The simplicity and charm of its early pink blooms make it an ideal companion plant to the sunshine golds of forsythia. Its extreme hardiness is a boon to local landscapes.
Minstead Scotch Broom says, “I’m from the Southwest, and I’ve got style!” The leaves are as inconspicuous as rosemary, but the spring flowers truly are show offs, their splashes of lilac and purple exuding an impressive fragrance that fills the air. With its open, spreading habit this background shrub is large enough to block offending views, and is perfect as filler for a corner or to enclose water features. It can be used as a striking accent in a courtyard, and its dense branches can form an impenetrable barrier for privacy.
Orange Rocket Barberry With arching spiny branches that make it very durable, this graceful shrub tops the list for rugged style. This seemingly inconspicuous little shrub is an amazing addition to a garden. When the leaves first appear it leaps into spring with a blaze of rocket orange color; then dainty yellow flowers form tiny red berries that butterflies and songbirds cannot resist. As these creatures flit in and out of the garden to visit this irresistible 3′ X 3′ plant, they provide a constant show of captivating activity.
Dark Knight Butterfly Bush This vigorous grower boasts dark purple flowers summer through fall. Not only attractive, it’s a magnet for all the butterflies that pass through our gardens seeking nectar! This variety naturally grows to head height, but can be cut back easily to keep its neat and tidy form. It is the perennial lilac of high mountain summers.
Goldfinger Potentilla is a small shrub that produces bursts of precious 2-inch gold buttercup-shaped flowers throughout the growing season. With its finely textured foliage, it is a good replacement for ferns in the inhospitable spots of the yard. Useful as a true perennial or as a fast growing shrub, its taste is repugnant to both deer and javelinas. Once matured, it requires little if any maintenance.
Radio Red Autumn Sage is so hardy it thrives on neglect. Aromatic mounds of dark, semi-evergreen foliage are covered with flashes of hot pink flowers from May through October. Hummingbirds and butterflies love the bright color and plentiful nectar. Because of its herbal nature, rabbits, javelinas, and deer turn up their noses at this season-long bloomer. It thrives on limited water, hot locations, and for those gardeners with thumbs that border on black.
The Garden Center is organized by plant category: companion plants grouped according to use in sun or shade, by height, water usage, blooming and evergreen. Department signs read: ‘Bloomers growing under 4′ tall’, ‘Evergreens that grow head high’, ‘Bloomers for the shade’, ‘Plants for topiaries’, and ‘Perennials happy in the sun’. So, if you’re ready to plant something new, measure the size you want your plant to grow and determine whether you need an evergreen or bloomer. Then enjoy the pleasure of browsing through the diverse selection available to enhance your landscape.
Until next week, I’ll be showing off the bloomers here at Watters Garden Center.
Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his website at WattersGardenCenter.com or FB.com/WattersGardenCenter.