It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain
Spring delights all of my senses. The landscape comes alive and looks fresh, reawakened from its winter sleep. The first time I came to the lowcountry was in the month of April. I remember feeling as though I had arrived in Camelot. The lush greenery and colorful blossoms abounded everywhere. The air carried a fragrance that lingered in my mind. It was truly idyllic and fairytale like. The beauty of springtime here captured my heart, forever etched in memory, and is what brought me here to call it home.
This month, lets look at the spring bloomers that are the real showstoppers.
Dogwood: (Cornus florida) I have adored this tree since I was a kid. The flower is actually a bract, and so interesting upon close inspection. The branches are lovely in arrangements. In our coastal climate, this tree will not attain the stature it does farther north and inland, but still a beauty in blossom. Anthracnose is a current problem, yet developments are being made for resistant cultivars.
Redbud: (Cercis canadensis) This is the tree that is covered in pink flowers all along the stems, appearing before its large heart shaped leaves emerge. It is a woodland understory and can look a little ragged by summers end.
Saucer Magnolia: (Magnolia x soulangiana) In the North, the large cup shaped pinkish blooms often turn to mush with a frost. Here in the South, one can count on yearly uninterrupted blooming bliss for several weeks. A very attractive tree with year round interest.
Bradford Pear: (Pyrus calleryana) Perfectly uniform, white blooming tree that is truly a harbinger of spring. It can be susceptible to wind damage.
Azaleas: (Rhododendron sp.) The favored choice here in the south for dependable flowers and evergreen foliage, everyone loves Azaleas. Culturally they prefer part sun to part shade, acidic soil, and moderate water. Prune after blooming up until July, after this, you will lose next years flowers. They will benefit from removing a third of their growth to keep them well shaped. Now is also the time to fertilize. There are a multitude of cultivars. I tend to like the larger leaf for they seem to perform better than the smaller dwarf selections.
Southern Indicas are the all stars here. These are the large, five to twelve foot, prolific shrubs that we see massed beneath our majestic live oaks in shades of whites and pinks.
Popular cultivars include:
‘Formosa’ purple-lavender or red blooms
‘G.G. Gerbing’ white blooms
‘George L. Taber’ light pink blooms, dark pink throat
‘Ray’s Rubra’ magenta-red flowers
‘Southern Charm’ dark pink blooms
‘Red Ruffle’ is more compact at two to three feet in size, with large leaves and big three inch ruffled double blooms. ‘Fashion’ is another shorter variety, three to four feet in height, with double salmon-red blooms. Both of these can rebloom in the fall.
Hawthorns: (Rhaphiolepsis sp.) Mounding, compact shrubs, (three to four feet) with leathery lustrous evergreen foliage. They bloom in pink or white, although the white are more disease resistant than most pink forms. ‘Majestic Beauty’ is a large growing bush that is available in topiary form.
Camellia: (Camellia japonica) The Queen of the garden. In maturity, these specimens are exquisite. They prefer acid soil, ample water, part shade, protection from deer, excellent air circulation, and a proactive approach to the treatment of scale.
Spirea: (Spirea sp.) ‘Anthony Waterer’ is a pink flowering, two to three foot mounding, fine foliage shrub which is wonderful in full to part sun. I have also seen Bridal Wreath do well if given ample space and sun to mature.
Loropetalum: (Loropetalum chinensis rubrum) This vibrant pink blooming shrub is an early spring bloomer and very eye catching. Unfortunately, the attractive graceful vase shape habit of this plant is often lost due to the excessive shearing often received.
Carolina Yellow Jessamine: (Gelsemium sempervirens) These are the sprawling masses of loose shrubs we often don’t notice along the highway until the spring when they are covered in bright yellow flowers. Highly fragrant, full sun lovers.
Vines and Climbers:
Wisteria: I’m not sure which I find more appealing about this rampant vine; it’s intoxicating scent, or its incredibly romantic purple flowers that cascade like a waterfall.
Lady Banks Rose: (Rosa banksiae) A charming old fashioned Southern jewel that I instantly loved the moment I saw bloom. ‘Lutea’, the yellow form is my favorite. The rose is actually a climber and will need support.