Garden Cameos: Welcome spring to the garden

Linda Cobb More Content Now
A true sign of spring is a successfully grown Daphne odora, a long-time favorite of many gardeners.

As I walked through the garden yesterday, I could actually feel that spring was here.

Overnight, all the grayness in the landscape had gone away. I find that amazing, but yet it is true. When I look at the landscape overall, I can see the pops of chartreuse green coming up.

The daylilies are among the first to come up out of that ground that has been so barren. The daffodils are up and blooming along with the hyacinths. My yellow flowering dogwood tree, cornus mas or cornelian cherry, is really doing its job, screaming out, “Look at my yellow blossoms.”

This is not your normal dogwood tree. To buy one, you will have to call your local garden centers and ask for it. It is definitely worth the trouble. I have two. It starts blooming in late March and continues through April. The tree gets to be about 25 feet tall overall.

This is a complex flowering dogwood, meaning each flower is made up of hundreds of tiny petals. The fall color of the red leaves followed by the red berry — which is eaten by the birds — makes this tree a four-season tree.

My spirea, bridal veil, is starting to turn white, as hundreds of tiny flowers line each stem of the shrub. These are part of my anchor shrubs that stand in the background and stop the eye from roaming, anchoring the back of the garden. The long arching stems covered in white flowers make quite a statement on the shrub or in a vase standing alone on the coffee table.

There are hundreds of spirea available but this one is my favorite. It takes full sun and, after it blooms, it puts on tiny green leaves that are very attractive. This shrub can be purchased at your local big-box stores or at your local green centers.

The other spirea that tops my list of all-time favorite plants is spirea goldmound. This 2-foot-tall and 2-foot-wide plant is the perfect size for any garden bed. The leaves are also starting to emerge along the stems of this perfectly sized plant in a brilliant chartreuse green. After it has fully leafed out it blooms on the terminal ends in a tiny pink flower.

All in all, it is very appealing. But the main reason I love this shrub is that it grows very well in full shade or full sun. You can’t beat that. If you have a shady garden, use three or four of these small shrubs to accent the bed. The brilliant color will definitely stand out in the dark shade. This plant is available at your local garden centers at a very reasonable price.

The other spring dazzler is the shrub pieris japonica. There are several cultivars but my favorite is temple bells. When mature, this 4- to 5-foot plant sports droops of white bell shaped flowers on hanging down stems that are absolutely incredible. While there is no fragrance, the architecture of this shrub’s flower is impressive. They last a long time in a flower vase and are very appealing with daffodils.

The shrub can take full sun or semi shade. It is a must to have in the garden. It is evergreen and after it blooms it puts on more leaves. In the middle of summer it starts to grow next year’s flower stems and hold them on the shrub through winter.

Finally, a true sign of spring is a successfully grown Daphne odora, a long-time favorite of many gardeners. You cannot consider Daphne for your garden without considering its temperamental side. Any experienced gardener knows about the “Daphne death dance,” where your Daphne is growing really well, and you come out of the house to smell its delicate fragrance and find the shrub dead overnight.

Seriously. Many experienced gardeners can verify this. I know many gardeners who take this death-dance situation personally and consider it a challenge to grow another immediately, just to prove that it can be done.

I hesitate to say this, but I have a Daphne odora that is about 14 years old and it’s doing fine. I try to ignore it out of pure fear that it will do the dance. But believe this, as soon as you read about my Daphne in this column, I am sure it is already doing the death dance just out of revenge. The plant likes semi shade, and likes to be planted high and kept on the dry side.

I hope you will consider growing at least two of these selections. You will not be sorry, and your garden will definitely look better.

Spring is really here. Finally.

As of this writing, the yellow finches are plentiful, darting about the garden with the woodpeckers. The air is crisp and clean and the colors in the landscape are coming into sharper focus.

Welcome spring!

Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal columnist Linda Cobb is a Master Gardener who lectures, teaches, and does garden design in South Carolina. She can be reached at lindacobb@charter.net. Visit her website at mygardenersguide.com.