Published April 2, 2012 | By Robert LaHoff

Spring is finally here! The anticipation of color emerging from swollen buds, daffodils poking their heads through the softening mulch and warmer temperatures all have me eager to start our gardens revival. There are so many wonderful plants to look forward to this time of year. Brilliant flowering trees like, Redbud, Magnolia and Cherry are the staples while Forsythia, Quince, Fothergilla and Kerria are a few of the showier shrubs to admire. This past fall and winter I was busy securing plant material for spring’s arrival. The following is a taste of some exciting and different plants to keep your gardens interesting.

The first tree, I must admit, reaffirms my admiration for Redbud. ‘Solar Eclipse’Redbud, Cercis canadensis ‘Solar Eclipse’, has amazing bi-colored, heart-shaped leaves that have been described as “large and ruffled”. As the leaves emerge an almost apricot color immediately jumps out at you. Peach, orange and amber are descriptive colors also used to describe the new growth before it hardens to a green rim with a yellow center. A sport of Cercis canadensis ‘The Rising Sun’, and found by Ray Jackson in Tennessee, this medium sized tree would benefit from a little protection from hot afternoon sun. Consider mass planting Echinacea or smaller hydrangea types around this tree for an impressive look. Oh yeah, pink flowers and coral new stems are assets too!

The next tree I have become quite fond of is a Chinese Fringetree, Chionanthus retusus ‘Tokyo Tower’. A fastigiate tree covered with white panicles in late spring/early summer, it really is the shiny foliage and extraordinary bark that is most appealing to me. Exfoliating bark, blueberry-like fruit, in the summer, and remarkable yellow fall color are all likely in its future. A full sun to part shade tree, this is a perfect candidate to fill a piece of colored pottery on your deck or patio or make an exclamation mark in your landscape bed. You will be able to enjoy something about this tree, every season, for years to come.

Next up is a pair of magnolia! Magnolia x ‘Judy Zuk’ pays tribute to the former president of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. ‘Judy Zuk’ has fragrant, yellow flowers that have tones of orange and pink at its base. The scent has been likened to “Fruit Loops”, a reference I concur with. What’s interesting about its flowers is they appear to be held upward so you can appreciate the flower by looking into it from above. The parentage of this tree is Magnolia acuminata x liliiflora. Any time I hear Cucumber Magnolia, Magnolia acuminata, I can’t help but remember the biggest one I have ever seen outside a “Friendly’s” in Caldwell, New Jersey. Not sure if it’s still there though. The second shocking magnolia to be on the lookout for is Magnolia x ‘Savage Splendor’‘Savage Splendor’ has impressive red flowers on it, devoid of any magenta overtones sometimes associated with other types. Another Magnolia acuminata type suggesting that both will be fairly large trees in time. Important to note that ‘Savage Splendor’ usually flowers late enough to escape a late frost, thus you should win more than you lose to Mother Nature’s sometimes-comedic wrath.

Finally, the BrazelBerries collection! I am mentioning this series of plants now as a tease to all you gardeners in search of the latest and greatest plant! The first limited quantities of these plants will be offered in 2013 in a finished, branded No. 2 container or larger. So what are the BrazelBerries? They are “very special small ornamental fruit shrubs that offer extraordinary plant beauty and delicious fruit”. Plants that have come to the gardening community after decades of research by the Brazelton family, and their team of experts, ornamental blueberries and a thornless, dwarf raspberry will be among the first offered by Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, Inc. During a trade show this past winter, I had an opportunity to witness one of these plants first hand. I was blown away by the careful research and breeding that had contributed to the pronounced attributes of these small, edible/ornamental plants. You will be too! Thick foliage, great fall color & heavy fruit set all on a small shrub… it’s a total package offering you different solutions to your landscape or patio pottery! Not to mention a fun way to get kids into gardening with berries.

There are so many great plants to be on the look out for this spring. New plants are constantly coming into our lives and as a good friend of mine once said, “love it as long as you can and then start anew”.

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