Continuing with an earlier post (also published in a new online gardening magazine titled Toil the Soilat Bestgardenblogs.com) discussing early flowering shrubs that are well-adapted for the Great Plains. Suggestions 1 through 3 were for Forsythia sp., Magnolia stellata, and Lilacs, and we continue now with:
Honeysuckles: Honeysuckles are great performers in Kansas gardens, and I’ve seen decent success with either bush-type introductions such as Lonicera tatarica ‘Arnold Red’ (blooming in late April in this region), or with the more vine-like and later-flowering Lonicera japonica cultivars such as ‘Hall’s Honeysuckle’. I grow the latter on a woven-wire cylinder-form trellis and it can always be counted on for a bright display in mid-May just as hummingbirds arrive in the area.
'Arnold Red' Honeysuckle
Lilac 'Josee' in front of Viburnum 'Nannyberry'
Viburnums: Visitors to Kansas gardens often seem surprised that many Viburnum sp. are among our most stalwart spring shrubs, and it is often perplexing to me to find that many experienced gardeners don’t believe that viburnums, as a group, tolerate full sun well. Take it from me that many species of viburnum tolerate the worst August sun that Kansas weather can throw at them. The viburnum season starts for us with fragrant offerings from Viburnum fragrans ‘Mohawk’ and Viburnum juddii, proceeds through the Viburnum lentago ‘Nannyberry’, and Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’, and then finishes with the Viburnum dentatum cultivars such as ‘Christom’ and ‘Synnestvedt’, all flowering in their own special times and in their own ways.
'Coles Red' Quince
Quince: Chaenomeles japonica, or Quince, cultivars such as the older ‘Texas Scarlet’ and newer varieties such as ‘Coles Red’ bloom in late April in Kansas gardens, and these shrubs are all so well-adapted to our climate as to be almost rampant in their growth habits. I have, in fact, grubbed out several of these shrubs who overgrew their anticipated bounds. Many local landscapes count on these shrubs in late April to shine briefly for a week or so and then to fade into green, undiseased obscurity as the summer and fall move ahead.
Weigela: I was always jealous of a neighbor who had a beautiful specimen of Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’, which always shone like a spotlight beside his front door, until I realized that just about any gardener can grow Weigela in the Flint Hills. Lately, I’ve been partial to the variegated form (pictured), whose white flowers make a different statement against their pale green and white foliage than ‘Red Prince’ does against its dark green clothes. Occasionally, Weigela will take a little extra water in the heat of the Kansas summer, but it is well worth it to carry a bucket or two at a critical moment if the reward is this early display next spring.
Philadelphia lewsii 'Blizzard'
Mockorange: Finally, I believe no Kansas or Midwest garden is complete without a specimen or two of Mockorange to perfume the air in May. Philadelphia lewsii ‘Blizzard’ makes a 6 foot tall tower of blinding white flowers every spring in my garden, but visitors have been known to swoon with range of its dangerously strong scent.
As an unabashed rosarian at heart, I can’t simply end an article recommending flowering spring shrubs for Kansas without rounding out the spring season by mentioning a few early shrub roses for the area. Without fail, the first rose to bloom in my garden every spring is the Rugosa hybrid ‘Marie Bugnet’, a white, disease-free shrub that reaches about 3 foot in both height and width in my garden. ‘Marie Bugnet’ is followed a week later by the dependable prairie pioneers of ‘Harison’s Yellow’ and ‘Therese Bugnet’, and then the whole rose season ushers me finally into summer. Soon, another growing season moves along, from June promise through August doldrums to November quiet. And I’m left as I am now, in the depths of Winter gloom, waiting for the Spring shrubs to soothe my soul.
'Therese Bugnet' (pink) and 'Harison's Yellow' (yellow)