Spring Celebrations

Area experts share favorite spring flowering plants

Ah, spring! After months spent indoors we can’t wait to hear the birds sing, to see the colorful blooming bulbs, trees and shrubs, to smell the blossoms!

One of the best ways to celebrate a sunny spring afternoon is to stroll the paths at one of our public gardens. And who better to recommend spring flowering plants that will thrive in our area than horticulturists from these gardens?

Fantastic Flowers

Everyone loves daffodils (Narcissus sp.). According to Kathy Burkholder, horticulturist at Ohio State University’s Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens, you can extend the bloom time in the garden by choosing early, mid, and late blooming types. Another advantage is that daffodils are shunned by rodents that dig up and eat other types of bulbs.

Photos by David Gardner courtesy of Chadwick Arboretum

Kathy lists pansies and violas as favorite cool season annuals for sunny locations. “I prefer violas over pansies,” she says. “They have smaller blooms, but more of them.” She especially likes the Sorbet series of Viola.

Photo by Sherrill Massey courtesy of Chadwick Arboretum

One of Kathy’s favorite perennials is Jack Frost Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’). The spring flowers are blue, but this plant is grown just as much for the bright silver marking on its leaves, which brighten up shady gardens throughout the growing season.

Photo by Sherrill Massey courtesy of Chadwick Arboretum

Margie Radebaugh, the director of horticulture and education at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, loves lungworts (Pulmonaria hybrids). These, too, are shade growers that have colorfully marked leaves.

Photo by Paul G. Wiegman courtesy of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

All of our experts highly recommend the Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis). Terrific under trees, this plant tolerates dry shade. Evergreen foliage remains perky throughout the winter. Flowers appear in winter, lasting through spring.

Photos by Sherrill Massey courtesy of Chadwick Arboretum

Steve Foltz, director of horticulture at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, praises Purple Smoke false indigo (Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’), a native plant for full sun. It grows a three-foot, tight round mound of fine textured blue-green foliage. Showy flower spikes shoot above the foliage in May. “This is one of the best—if not the best—Baptisia on the market,” he says.

Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

Chris Jensen, horticulturist at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark in Dayton, likes crocus. He especially likes the late-winter blooming Crocus thomasinianus, which are affectionately known as “tommies.” This crocus species is famous for being squirrel resistant and self-sowing. “It spreads like crazy,” Chris says.

Photo courtesy of Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark

Wonderful Woody Plants

The early-spring blooming witch hazel shrubs are a favorite of all our experts. Chris knows his witch hazel well—there are over 100 varieties planted at Wegerzyn Gardens. “Hammemelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ is one of the best,” says Chris. “It has strong, light yellow flowers with incredible fragrance. It’s a heavy bloomer, on a good sized shrub.”

Witch Hazel photo courtesy of Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark

Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii) is a small shrub on which the flowers look like creamy white bottlebrushes at the ends of the stems, appearing before the leaves in April. Steve points out that Dwarf fothergilla also has one of the best fall colors of any shrub, turning from yellow to orange to red all on the same plant around the end of October.

Photos courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

Our native flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is one of the most spectacular spring flowering trees when planted in rich, well-drained soils and protected from the hot afternoon sun. Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio selected a truly beautiful specimen that they named the Spring Grove Dogwood.

Photos courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

According to Steve, “Most flowering dogwoods sport a single blossom on the end of the stem. The Spring Grove Dogwood has multiple blossoms making for a spectacular show in the spring. In the fall you are treated to a display of burgundy red leaf color that lasts up to three weeks. Bright red fruit is a bonus.”

Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

Margie likes the cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas), which presents bright yellow flowers in March. The foliage is a glossy dark green during the summer, the fruit is bright red and develops in the fall along with a wonderful red fall color, and exfoliating bark is an interesting feature all year long. missing image file

Photo by Paul G. Wiegman courtesy of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Cherry blossom viewing is a traditional rite of spring. According to Steve, “There are many different types of cherries, but in my opinion Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) is the best. Its light pink flowers are a fond farewell to winter and a welcome to spring.” Yoshino Cherry takes full sun and stays around 20 to 25 feet in height and spread.

Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

 

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