From Doldrums To Delights

17 Mar From Doldrums To Delights

From Doldrums To Delights


Tulips, daffodils and forsythia have long been associated as being harbingers of spring. They are a welcome site after the doldrums of winter. However, these popular plant icons are not the only ones we have to look forward to. There are others out there that not only compliment the fore mentioned, but if used effectively, can extend your garden experience from early spring to late fall/early winter.

Cornus officinalis ‘Morris Arboretum’, the Japanese Cornel Dogwood, is a small tree or large shrub noted for its early yellow flowers in March. In fact, it is believed to flower one to two weeks earlier than the more popular Cornus mas, Corneliancherry Dogwood. Morris Arboretum’s claim to fame is that its flowers are abundant and extended over other varieties. The bark offers shades of grey, brown and orange and its handsome rounded outline lends itself well to a smaller garden footprint. A very durable, dense canopy of thick glossy leaves can withstand temperatures of about -20 Fahrenheit. Native to Japan and Korea, Morris Arboretum is very adaptable, but prefers well drained soils. Don’t forget to look for edible red drupes and purple-red foliage in the fall. Consider using this little gem in the foreground of your garden with a backdrop of some dark green Oriental Spruce, Picea orientalis. You will build texture and create layers in a small amount of space.

Mahonia aquifolium, the Oregon Grapeholly, also offers attributes throughout the year. This evergreen shrub grows comfortably to three to six feet tall and wide. Noticeable are its bright yellow flowers in late March/early April. Borne in clusters on erect stems, these slightly fragrant flowers appear on two to three inch racemes. The common name, Grape Holly, refers to dark blue fruits that appear from late summer through early winter, which resemble small grapes. A fan of moist, well drained soils, the biggest trick to this plants success is the protection from desiccating winds in the winter. This is crucial!! And if possible look for the cultivar “Orange Flame”. Boasting orange-bronze new foliage against darker green mature foliage is a plus for any gardener. Try to provide a bit more sun for this one though.

Conifers always seem to be forgotten when talking about garden excitement. They’re usually referred to only when talking about a proverbial hedge of “EVERGREENS’ or seen far too often dumped at the corner of a home as an inadequate anchor. How about one that offers four colors early in the spring? Picea bicolor “Howells Dwarf Tigertail” (bicolor spruce) is as exciting to a conifer lover as game seven of a subway World Series is to a sports fan. Where do I start? Perhaps the upward growing new shoots pushing through rose-purple buds. Or the bright silver-blue underside of the needle capped by green with hints of yellow on the most exposed branches. Almost every color is represented at one time or another on this conifer. By pruning out the main leader when young, you can maintain a flat topped, spreading conifer that will be well suited for any garden long term. As is true with most conifers, this one likes moist, well drained soil and sunshine. When possible try to tuck this one out of hot, late afternoon sun to enjoy its best color markings. Should you want a broad pyramidal tree, resist pruning the main leader and you will have a garden focal point that will offer you year round interest.

With property lots becoming increasingly smaller in New Jersey and gardening becoming one of the fastest growing hobbies, it is important not to be capricious in your plant selections as your choices will define your garden footprints. Using deciduous ornamentals, broadleaf evergreens and conifers are a great way to build color, texture and size in your landscape. And if the plants mentioned above just happen to be deer resistant, well that’s an extra bonus.


Robert LaHoff

Hall’s Garden Center