Awash with color from all the plants of spring…flowering trees, shrubs, perennials, groundcovers and, of course, flowering bulbs...the Spring Border, located on the north side of the greenhouses, spans the length of the greenhouse and flows around the corner near the parking lot.
The display of Tulips varies from year to year, but some bulbs, like Snowdrops, Glory-of -the-Snow and Daffodil, are permanent and will always brighten the border. Snowdrops Galanthus nivalis is a true harbinger of spring; it usually blooms in March and April and will often poke its head up through snow cover if present. A smaller minor bulb, with nodding white flowers that are thought to look like drops of snow, it is planted in the fall and is best massed in sweeping drifts and allowed to naturalize, along woodland edge or in lawns under large deciduous trees. It is also effective in groupings in rock gardens, border fronts, in front of flowering shrubs or along walks or paths. Blooming just after Snowdrops, Glory-of -the-Snow Chionodoxa luciliae has 5-10 small star-shaped flowers in a spray. The flowers are lilac to blue flowers with white centers. They are great naturalizers in rock and woodland gardens and can be used as a spring groundcover for perennials or as a companion for taller bulbs.
Especially noteworthy are the exotic Daffodil or Narcissus that have been incorporated into this border. One of my favorites is Narcissus triandrus ‘Hawera,' a low-growing daffodil, reaching 6-8” in height. Often bearing 3-5 flowers on each stem, it has elegant blooms of canary yellow. Seemingly delicate, the flowers gracefully nod downward and carry swept-back outer petals.
Certainly no Spring Border would be complete without some of the classics like Lilac, Witchhazel, Forsythia, Tulip and Daffodil. However, we want to expand the palette to include some plants that are often overlooked or forgotten like Pearl Bush, Clove Currant and Giant Pussy Willow, or some of the beautiful spring-blooming perennials like Candytuft or Cranesbill. Pearl Bush Exochorda x macrantha 'The Bride’ is an eye-catching but seldom used, spring-flowering shrub, with masses of bridal-white flowers in late spring on arching branches. The flower buds appear like large pearls, sitting along the stems before opening, hence the common name. Compact in form, it attains a 4’ height and spread. Near the street lamp, just outside the fence, there is a Clove Currant Ribes odoratum, a thornless, loosely-branched, shrub growing 6-8’ in height and 6-10’ spread. It has wonderful golden yellow flowers that appear in very early spring and emit a strong, clove fragrance, while autumn color varies from yellow to hint of red. The Giant Pussy Willow Salix Chaenomeloides is a focal point in early spring. A large shrub or small tree, reaching 10-12' in height, has huge Willow catkins that approach the size of a rabbit's foot! One of the first bouquets heralding the arrival of spring, it is great for cutting and spring arrangements.
Like a dusting of late snow, Candytuft Iberis sempervirens bears crisp white flowers in mid spring and is a hardy little perennial from the past, seldom used today. Never growing more than 12” in height, it forms an attractive groundcover with loose mounds of slender, glossy green leaves. It has semi-evergreen foliage that often persists year-round; sun scorch may damage the foliage in rough winters, but it will quickly fill in with new growth in spring. Candytuft is an excellent edging plant for borders, paths or walkways. In rock gardens, it can be tucked into crevices or allowed to sprawl over stone work. Rozanne Cranesbill Geranium 'Gerwat' (photo right) is an amazing new Cranesbill and has proven to be an outstanding performer. It is most revered for its long bloom time, often blooming from June until frost, producing clear violet-blue flowers with white centers. A vigorous grower, it is a clump-forming hardy geranium that typically grows in a mound 18” tall and 24” wide. With deeply cut dark foliage, lightly marbled with chartreuse, it often turns red in autumn for additional impact. Use it as a specimen plant or as a large mass planting at the front of a border; it fits comfortably in a cottage garden or rock garden, rambling over walls and boulders. As a gardener, you will want to make it a priority to visit this border this spring.