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Garden Talk: Unique and unusual spring blooming plants for your garden

Mar. 15, 2013
 
Riverside Florists Summons Spring
Riverside Florists Summons Spring: MARCH 9, 2013: Riverside Florists Summons Spring with a collection of new plants and old favorites.
The unusual foliage of this variegated columbine makes it a fun choice for the spring garden. / Rob Zimmer/Post-Crescent Media

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Rob Zimmer’s four-part Spring Gardening series continues with a look into the world of spring-flowering trees and shrubs. From lilacs and magnolias to cherries and apples, learn about them in next Friday’s Life! and at postcrescent.com.

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Gardeners love to bring the most unique and unusual plants home to their backyard sanctuaries, always on the lookout for the newest colors, shapes and textures. And we’re not afraid to spend good money for it. The places we travel and passion we feel for our hobby are boundless.

Whether looking for the hottest new plants and hybrids of the year or searching for something tried and true — and just different — we always seem to have room for just one more. Just one more daylily. Just one more iris. Just one more hosta.

Need some suggestions for something unique and unusual to dabble in this growing season? Here are some great spring-blooming plants that you just may want to add to your yard and garden.

Royal presence

Most dramatic in the spring garden are the giant crown imperials, stunning and statuesque when they come into bloom in April and May.

Crown imperials are large, spring-flowering bulbs, putting on an amazing show for weeks in spring as they first begin to emerge from the ground, then stretch skyward, finally blooming in a huge, unique display that can’t be matched in the spring garden.

True heirlooms that have been around for generations, many gardeners still have not discovered the one-of-a-kind, royal presence that crown imperials have in the garden. This is likely due to the price, as crown imperial bulbs are not cheap.

Planted in fall, just like tulips and daffodils, the bulbs are the size of tennis balls, planted 6-8 inches deep.

As they emerge with spring’s warmth, the plant resembles a pineapple, with unique, tropical foliage rising from the earth. The flowering stalk soon rises, growing higher and higher, carrying the foliage crown with it to its full height.

The flowers begin to form, hanging downward from the bottom of the crown, flushing to red, yellow or orange, depending on the variety.

Snow angels

Winter’s snow still covers the garden when hellebores begin to sprout and bloom in late winter or early spring. Depending on the winter, this could be as early as February or March. Last year, a few of mine were budded in late February.

Hellebores are loved for their unusual foliage as much as for their unique and early flowers. With so many varieties to choose from, there are plants that feature striking, spiny foliage, similar to sea hollies or succulents, as well as those that feature heavily lobed or fingered foliage. There are patterned leaves, plain leaves, leaves in deep green and those that feature soft, sea foam green foliage.

The flowers are stunning in early spring, coming in many unusual metallic tones such as steel, bronze and copper, as well as pink, maroon, lime green, white and red.

Promise in pink

Eastern redbud blooms as early as April, depending on the weather, promising spring long before other garden plants have begun to waken.

The redbud is a stunning tree in early spring, exploding with hundreds of thousands of tiny, pink florets all along its twigs and branches, creating a unique, smoky effect when seen from a distance. Up close, the appearance is even more enchanting, with tiny flowers sprouting from nearly every inch of each branch.

Did you know that redbud flowers are edible? The flowers taste just like pea pods and are delicious in a salad or as a garnish.

Woodland treasures

Many of the most beautiful and unique spring plants are found in the woodland garden in spring. Featuring not only beautiful flowers but often striking and unusual foliage, woodland plants in spring are often at their best during April and May, just before the canopy overhead flushes out.

Jack-in-the-pulpits are coming into their own in recent years with a slew of colorful, striking and bizarre forms, most of which are hardy in our area. Native jack-in-the-pulpits, with their beautiful lime green “hoods” or spathes, striped in chocolate maroon, can grow to three feet in height, with their distinct flowers lasting well into early summer.

Introduced hybrids come in many different colors, including red, black, purple, and other beautiful combinations. The foliage of the jack-in-the-pulpit is often just as unique and cherished as its bloom, with huge, lobed or fingered leaves that are often mottled or striped.

Variegated columbines, blooming in deep blue or pristine white, feature leaves that are heavily mottled and spotted in green and gold, creating a unique effect in the shade garden that will last long after the spring flowers have faded.

— Robert Zimmer: 920-993-1000, ext. 7154, rzimmer@postcrescent.com.

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