Published June 10, 2011 | By Robert LaHoff, Halls Garden Center & Florist

Could it be…. Spring is finally here? After one of the longest, coldest, snowiest winters I can remember in a long while, the buds on maple trees are opened, daffodils have welcomed us and the cheerful faces on pansies are sitting in our planters outside our front door. Thank God! Nursery stock is pouring into your local independent garden center right now and there are so many plants to be excited about this year. In particular, there are some tiny wonders to be on the lookout for to help your garden grow. The following plants are a collection of smaller cultivars that will fit neatly into most any garden. Here we go!!

Buddleia ‘Lo & Behold’ is a hot new comer! A breakthrough variety of Butterfly- bush with all the fragrance and butterfly appeal of traditional varieties, this pint size wonder stays under four feet without any pruning. ‘Lo & Behold’ blooms continuously from mid-summer to frost without deadheading. A non-invasive, easy to grow, care free Buddleia that requires full sun and not much more. This Butterfly-bush is “hardy” to zone 5. Mass plantings just got a whole lot better.

Next is Clethra alnifolia ‘Cristalina’. A dwarf Summersweet offering fragrant, pure white flowers in mid to late summer. Dark, glossy foliage holds its shape neatly without any pruning and turns yellow in the fall. An excellent native plant that has always been thoughtfully planted in shade and wet areas, this Summersweet has certainly held my attention.

Hydrangea ‘Incrediball’, Hydrangea arborescens ‘Abetwo’ is an adaptable native plant producing enormous white flowers, as much as a foot across. A trustworthy beauty that is cold hardy, ‘Incrediball’ blooms on new wood. The flowers are held upright on sturdy stems and don’t flop around like other varieties. Prune this one back in late winter to encourage strong new growth and know that flower color is not affected by soil PH here. ‘Invincibelle Spirit’ is the first pink-flowering mophead Hydrangea arborescens! Another hardy, reliable, worthwhile garden gem that spits loads of hot pink flowers from early summer to frost, ‘Invincibelle Spirit’ is a heavy bloomer in the north and is heat tolerant. Both of these hydrangea fit nicely in smaller spaces with anticipated heights of 4-6 feet.

“An oldie but a goodie” for me is Little Henry Sweetspire, Itea virginica ‘Sprich’. Little Henry has always proven itself useful as a reliable answer for wet conditions. Another native with lots of potential. Growing anywhere from full sun to full shade, it seems many times to me to be indestructible. Little to no maintenance, ‘Little Henry’ has scented, pure white flowers that shoot out at you in the early summer. Its mounded and compact stature is ideal again for mass plantings.

‘Bloomerang’ Purple Reblooming Lilac, Syringa x ‘Penda’ is a revolutionary new kind of lilac. A continual bloomer throughout the spring and summer, ‘Bloomerang’ is not only fragrant, but it can bloom until the frost. An ideal candidate for foundation plantings, you can enjoy the sweet smell of lilac for months on end now. Hardy from zones 3-7, Bloomerang is sure to brighten up your garden.

Cherry Dazzle Crape Myrtle, Lagerstroemia ‘Gamad I’ starts with bronze new foliage that later turns to dark green. Following this performance are masses of bright red flowers and showy red-purple autumn foliage. With improved disease and pest resistance this dwarf Crape Myrtle matures nicely between 3-5 feet.

Finally, my new favorite plant, at least for this week, is Liriope ‘Emerald Goddess’, Liriope muscari ‘Love Potion No. 13”.This is a superior selection of Liriope that maintains its dark green markings throughout the winter and has good resistance to crown rot. The flowers are more intense, uniform and longer lasting than ‘Big Blue’. This outstanding, evergreen groundcover is one of the strongest architectural plants used by designers today. Useful in borders, planters, woodland gardens, formal, informal, wet, dry… really almost anywhere, designers keep finding new uses for this strap-leaf lilyturf. Truly magnificent paired against boxwood in big drifts.

Every garden could benefit from at least one of these exiting plants. The attributes of these small wonders lend themselves to new and exciting garden design. Pressing the envelope of what is possible, thoughtful and inspirational these plants are contributing to better gardens everywhere. For myself, a front foundation drift of some 175 Liriope ‘Emerald Goddess’ has helped punctuate my Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’s while at the same time helped me to think outside the box. And that’s not a bad thing!