For me, warnings of the onset of Spring are manifest in the witch hazels, the daffodils, the minor bulbs, and the redbuds, but I finally feel Spring each year in my heart when my ornamental Double-flowering Red Peach (Prunus persica 'Rubroplena') blooms.
The red-blooming peach was introduced to Europe in 1840. I first saw one over a decade ago when I saw one planted in a display garden at a local nursery (Lee Creek Garden). A few years later I stumbled across a small 3 foot specimen at Lowes for the outrageous price of $50.00 and, of course, purchased it immediately and planted it in a prominent landscape spot. Today, it stands about 12 feet tall and 10 feet across, blooming only for a short time, but, Oh what a display it makes! Every year, it has made a good excuse to get my daughter to pose with her Italian Greyhound in front of it during bloom; the blooming of the growing teenager a foreground to the blooming and growing of the tree over a decade.
My 'Rubroplena' started to bloom just 2 days ago and was fully open last night. Although Internet references report that this tree is "long-blooming" for 2 weeks, I've always found the blooms fleeting and with the wind of last night's onrushing storm already knocking off blossoms to the ground, I quickly snapped this year's picture. Blown up, it is just blurry enough that you can see the wind was moving it even during the photo, but for overall landscape value, this tree is a peach.
I've learned that in purchasing 'Rubroplena', I may have purchased the plainest red peach on the market and that there are other named varieties out there. 'Late Red' sounds like a good one for those in Zone 6 or higher to avoid late freezes, and 'Red Baron' is a double-blooming variety that is supposed to also provide edible peaches, unlike my 'Rubroplena' whose peaches are small, hard, and bitter. Even harder to resist is finding that there is a weeping double red flowering peach tree on the market, but again, it is only recommended for Zone 6 or above so I think I can resist the temptation to throw money and plant tissue down the drain in a fruitless effort. I fear I'm about to begin a search, however, for a commercial source of a cultivar named 'Versicolor', which supposedly bears semi-double white and red-striped flowers on the same tree. Zone-hardiness doesn't count when a quest of such beauty commences.
For those who would like to try 'Rubroplena', it seems to be perfectly hardy here in Zone 5B and it has never missed a bloom despite freeze or frost. Calling it "red" is really a bit of a stretch as I would have called it more of a deep pink, but there is no reason to disparage the blooms for our color mischaracterizations. Leaf curl doesn't seem to affect it, at least to a noticeable degree, and thus I don't spray this tree when I spray "the eating" peaches. I have trimmed it only to shape the tree and keep it from rubbing against the house. If it has a drawback, it is that the hard fruits drop off in late fall and early spring and may be a bit dangerous to foot traffic if placed near a walkway. I ignore the fruits entirely, but it is possible the birds enjoy them because I now have another 'Rubroplena' that sprouted on its own over 200 feet from the first. Of course, I kept the gift from the sky and planted another garden bed around it.