Spring is springing with an early vengeance this year! While I am concerned about what that means for the growing season, the fruit harvest, the frog population, etc. I can’t help but delight in seeing some of my favorite trees and shrubs “doing their thing”. Seeing these plants come into bloom and sharing their fragrance and spring cheer is like greeting an old friend after a long absence. While there are so many great plants for the spring garden, two of my favorites are Cornus mas, the Cornelian Cherry, and Daphne odora, the February Daphne.
Cornus mas is an excellent pick for small gardens, or for large gardens when you need an understory plant or for where you want a tree to help bring the scale down to the human level (for instance, between all the Cedars and Firs and your house). It likes part shade to sun and will tolerate a moist heavy soil (though it will thrive in average soils too). The acid yellow flowers are some of the first to appear in the spring, following the Witch Hazels and before the early Plums and Cherries. In fall, shiny bright red, oblong fruits the size of a grape hang temptingly from the branches. They are on the tart side, but are edible and make beautiful & tasty preserves, jams and syrups. I love the branching structure and the lightweight texture of the tree. But careful; do not prune this tree hard or it will sucker. This is one that is best left alone! This tree is in the Dogwood family, and that quality of a vigorous growth response following pruning is characteristic to that family.
Every Whidbey Island garden needs a Daphne odora! This early bloomer is an absolute must-have for its amazing fragrance. It is also one of my top all-time selections for a small-scale evergreen shrub, growing about 3′ – 4′ wide and tall after several years. In addition to the heady spring blooms, the variegated forms offer year-round foliar interest. The plants you find in a nursery are often a little awkward, but they are worth the investment and patience. Site this plant out of the wind, in a partly shaded location with reasonable drainage. You don’t have to worry about deer! I like to snip a sprig with blooms and pop it into a vase to bring that delicious scent into my home.
As always, if you have any questions about plant choices or maintenance tips for your Whidbey Island garden, please don’t hesitate to email [email protected] or call 360.632.0686! I am more than happy to offer advice.