The very early spring is often the most exciting time of the year for gardeners, particularly those who are located in the milder regions of the country. I for one am often sighted ploughing around my front gardens decked out in fuzzy slippers, a dressing gown (on a good day) or my wellingtons checking for signs of life or early bloom on my plants. It’s little wonder that some of we gardeners are labeled as ‘a bit odd’! One of the first plants that I check are my Forsythia (pronounced For- sigh-thee-a) as I garden in a cold region of the country. These harbingers of spring are always such a delight to see as the bare branches burst into the brilliant sunny yellow flowers. For many gardeners in warmer climates, these plants are a tad weedy and require regular pruning to keep them in check. In my cold climate garden, they are not as robust, rambunctious or weedy. Nevertheless, other gardeners scoff at the thought of even having a Forsythia, but I love ‘em.
Right along side of my yellow blooming shrubs sits a diminutive eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) just ready to burst into bloom. This native tree is really quite amazing when you come to realize that they have been around at the same time as the dinosaurs and have survived relatively unchanged over the eons of time. Indeed, a testament to the hardiness and adaptability of this tree. If you haven’t seen or grown this tree, this may be the year to start. The flowers appear on the bare branches, much like the Forsythia initially, as tiny pinkish buds that burst into a delicate pink/cranberry colour when they are fully open. The branches can be just covered with a thick candy-floss like look with the flowers. The tree has a great form in my opinion, and very easy to prune when the time comes. The branching structure is quite stylized, so the overall form looks like a perfect drawing of a tree. The leaves are heart-shaped, not unlike a lilac and not particularly densely placed on the branches so the shade is dappled under the tree. I have planted spring flowering bulbs under the tree so that there is an orchestration of colour throughout the spring. The bark is smooth and dark grey to black under my conditions, so all in all it is a great specimen for a shadier corner of my garden. Keep in mind that even a shady garden is really a full sun garden in the spring as the leaves are not yet fully formed, so you can stretch the list of what can be planted for spring colour.
Great companions for the Redbud are the herbaceous Aconites and Hellebores along with your favourite Scilla and Crocus. Native Trilliums, both white and red will enhance the spring garden as well, followed by native Mayflowers, a great accent under or close to your Forsythia and Cercis.
February 17th, 2019