‘Summer Snowflake’ (Viburnum plicatum)

Keep the colour coming all spring

Flowering shrubs can deliver a cascade of colour if timed right

  • Apr. 28, 2018 7:30 a.m.

Brian Minter

Special to The Progress

Often at this time of year, we admire the many flowering shrubs in other folks’ gardens, but we never seem to get around to planting some of these beauties in our own yards. I’m sure part of the reason is that we simply don’t know what these plants are, and that’s a real shame because they can provide a sequence of almost continuous colour all spring.

I like to plant flowering shrubs among conifers, broadleaved evergreens (like rhododendrons) and evergreen perennials because arranging them this way creates a more pleasing year-round effect, especially in winter when flowering shrubs do not look their best.

As well as their period of blazing colour, flowering shrubs have many other features that can enhance a garden. During winter, their branches can be a source of cut flowers to bring indoors and enjoy as their blooms open. Many shrubs have great summer foliage colour, like the spiraeas ‘Goldmound’, a dwarf variety; ‘Magic Carpet’, a bronze with pink flowers; and old-fashioned ‘Gold Flame’, a variety with bright coppery-yellow new growth. Viburnums have impressive autumn colour, which adds a nice touch to a fall garden. In winter, flowering shrubs provide great protective thickets for birds and some provide food. As well, flowering shrubs attract birds all spring and summer to keep insect populations under control.

In terms of fragrance, the new Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ truly turns heads. This hardy evergreen daphne grows 3-4 feet tall and wide with stunning white, fragrant flowers from April through October. It is a ‘must have’.

Chaenomeles (flowering quince) in full bloom are quite a sight. From the brilliant scarlet ‘Hollandia’ to the orangey ‘Orange Delight’, chaenomeles are a must for spring gardens. They usually need a bit of room because older plants will grow up to eight feet, but don’t let them! They can be easily espaliered against an old fence or wall and if you are really creative, try training them into a bonsai form. Their apple-like fruits, which develop later in the summer, have a bitter taste, but they make wonderful jelly.

From the old-fashioned snowball tree (Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’) to the new continuous June-to-frost bloomer, ‘Summer Snowflake’ (Viburnum plicatum) – an introduction from the UBC Botanical Garden – viburnums are the backbone of a spring garden. If you enjoy fragrance, then the perfume of Viburnum carlcephalum will knock your socks off. I’m also impressed with the semi-evergreen V. burkwoodii with its glossy leaves and fragrant pink-budded blossom clusters that open into pure white perfumed balls. Not to be ignored are the V. tomentosum varieties like ‘Mariesii’. I like them because of the masses of flat, white lacecap-like flowers that appear in horizontal tiers on these rather wide-spreading plants. In a way, they’re similar to ‘Summer Snowflake’, but very low and spreading in appearance.

Deciduous azaleas will be blooming soon, which means we’re going to miss them in our June gardens. The old ‘Mollis’ varieties still pack a wallop with their brilliant orange and red colours, and if you are lucky and can find an old yellow seedling variety, they will fill your whole garden with a beautiful sweet perfume. If fragrance is important, try the ‘Viscosum’ hybrids. They are sometimes called swamp honeysuckles because of their perfume and narrow funnel-shaped small flowers. ‘Antelope’ is a soft pink with a salmon throat; ‘Rosata’ is a deep carmine rose; and ‘Arpege’ is a deep yellow. Hybrids are the real show stoppers! The large burnt orange ‘Gibraltar’, the orange-red ‘Coccinea Speciosa’ and the huge rose-pink ‘Homebush’ are among my favourites.

One of the most overlooked groundcovers are the low-growing genistas. I’m fond of the striking ‘G. lydia’, but the very flat-growing Genista pilosa ‘Vancouver Gold’ is certainly one of the most outstanding plants to come along in quite awhile.

These are just a few of the flowering shrubs that are in bloom or are about to come into bloom, and I hope you can take the time to at least look at them in private or public gardens and nurseries to see just how spectacular they can be. I’m sure you will be enticed to try them in your own garden.

Just Posted

Recruiting physicians to practice in Chilliwack is an uphill battle

Shortage of doctors is critical right across Canada, and not just Chilliwack

Chilliwack prolific offender a no-show for sentencing hearing

Warrant issued on May 17 for Jeffrey Michael Kizmann wanted for robbery

More than 100 military troops stationed in Chilliwack on flood watch

As water recedes in the Interior, military departs with a contingent to stay behind in Fraser region

De Jaeger throws his hat in the ring for Chilliwack city council

Longtime owner of Bravo Restaurant also ran in the 2015 federal election for Chilliwack-Hope

Column: Chilliwack’s RBC Cup win a dream come true

Jacob Bestebroer spent hours wondering what a championship might feel like, and finally found out.

Vancouver Island girl scores with winning song for BC Summer Games

‘Colours’ is a perfect theme for 2018 BC Summer Games

Drivers could pay $8 per day to help cut gridlock under new plan

Mobility pricing report outlines two existing models to cut Metro Vancouver congestion by 20-25%

B.C. pipeline goes ahead despite scrapped Pacific Northwest LNG

NEB approves amendment for $1.4-billion natural gas North Montney Mainline Project

Update: Wildfire northwest of Kamloops jumps from 60 to 800 hectares

Ground crews and aircraft are responding to an estimated 50 hectare wildfire approximately 55 kilometers northwest of Kamloops, near the Deadman Vidette Road.

Feds limit chinook fishery to help killer whale recovery

Chinook is main food source for only 76 southern residents killer whales left

B.C. mom who died just before daughter’s wedding wanted family to be happy: twin

Ann Wittenberg was pulled into the ocean while on a surf board in Tofino last weekend

Courtenay-Alberni MP calls for lifeguards at popular surf spot near Tofino

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is defending its decision to cancel the surf guard program.

Harvey Weinstein to surrender in sex misconduct probe: officials

Would be first criminal charge against Weinstein since scores of women came forward

Fuel truck crash closes B.C. highway, sends two to hospital

The Trans-Canada Highway on Vancouver Island is expected to be closed until Thursday evening

Most Read