As spring approaches, I begin to reassess my garden in earnest to see where changes are needed. The bones of my garden tell me a story. Do I need to fill an area? What plants are not performing and should be replaced? So I begin to plan for the spring clean up and planting.
“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.” ― Aldo Leopold
My posts here of late have drifted to beloved native plants that gardeners should consider adding to their garden to entice wildlife and benefit the ecosystem. But gardeners are after plantaholics and gravitate toward flowers before we consider other benefits of a plant. We also like to look at the latest trends in gardening. Now I am not saying I follow these trends or am a plantaholic (OK I am), but if I did or you do follow trends consider that this year the experts are saying one of the big trends is flowering shrubs.
When I heard this, I said hey I wonder if gardeners know that many flowering shrubs are native. So I thought I would share a few native flowering shrubs you can add to your garden this year. These shrubs have added value because they provide food and shelter for birds and pollinators, they’re low maintenance, easily fill larger spaces and provide flowers and fragrance without the upkeep of some other shrubs. Also they are easily found at local nurseries.
Viburnum dentatum or Arrowwood
This shrub, from the Honeysuckle family, can easily grow 6 to 12 feet forming a loose round habit. It’s white flowers look like a spirea in flower. The May flowers turn to dark blue berries that are stripped from my shrub by juvenile robins and their parents before they leave the area. The beautiful dark green foliage turns gorgeous shades of of coral red.
It seems to be fine in my amended clay soil growing in sun to shade. It tolerates dry to wet conditions. If you do not want the shrub to grow to its full height, you can keep it trimmed. Mine is 5 feet and perfect at the edge of my patio. The berries also attract Eastern Bluebird, Northern Flicker, Gray Catbird, and small mammals although the birds hoard the berries so I have never seen any small critters sharing the berries with birds. Also this plant is not messy since the berries never have a chance to fall all over the ground in my garden. An added bonus of this shrub’s flowers are visited by butterflies and it is the larval host for the Spring Azure butterfly.
Clethra alnifolia or Summer sweet
Summer sweet is a narrower growing shrub that can grow from 3-6 feet tall and is part of the Sweet-Pepperbush family. This shrub flowers with white or pink spiky, fragrant flowers at the end of the branches. The fall color is beautiful as shown here. A bright yellow with red markings. The flowers form brown clusters of fruit which remain all winter.
This shrub is disease and insect free and will tolerate clay soil. It loves sun to shade, but it must have moisture. Clethra is found in swamps, bogs and stream banks which is why it loves wet conditions. I have tried to grow it in drier conditions to no avail. So if you have a rain garden area or wet spot plant a clethra. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love the flowers of clethra and so do I. It has a wonderful scent.
Spring and fall are great times to plant trees and shrubs. So if you are considering adding flowering shrubs this year to your garden, why notconsider natives. I will have more native flowering shrubs for you to consider in your garden plans next week.
“To me, the garden is a doorway to other worlds; one of them, of course, is the world of birds. The garden is their dinner table, bursting with bugs and worms and succulent berries.”
- Anne Raver
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