In the Garden:
Lower South
March, 2012
Regional Report

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These paperwhites are among the many plants that are well worth a place in the landscape even though they only bloom in the spring.

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While I prize those flowering plants that bloom on for months at a time, I also enjoy the ones that do their thing and then disappear for the remainder of the year. Spring is a prime time for many of these "one shot wonders." Despite their relatively short bloom time, they have an important place in our landscapes.

Among the spring bloomers are the flowers considered either cool season annuals or biennials that emerged last fall and have spent the winter in inconspicuous rosettes or small clumps of foliage, now about to burst forth in new growth and blooms. Some of my favorites include sweet peas, poppies, larkspurs, and many of our best wildflowers.

Another group of flowers putting on their one time performance are the various late winter and spring blooming bulbs. Paperwhites, daffodils, snowflake, ground orchids, and species tulips are examples of these bulbs that deserve a spot in our landscapes. Tuck a few in here and there for the annual surprise visit, after which they exit stage left. While I'm mentioning these I should also include the many other naturalizing bulbs that appear in summer or fall. There is nothing like having the oxblood or schoolhouse lilies appear after a blazing hot southern summer is broken by the first fall rains. Likewise the lycoris, belladonna lily and Johnson's amaryllis stop traffic when they appear for their annual show.

Spring blooming shrubs are another favorite in our southern gardens. If you are fortunate enough to live in the northern parts of the Lower South (that sounds strange), the early yellow blooms of forsythia kick off the season. Flowering quince, spirea or bridal wreath, azaleas, Japanese pieris, mock orange, and Chinese fringe flower (Loropetalum) brighten the spring landscape with a variety of bloom colors and unique forms. In late spring Virginia sweetspire takes center stage.

Large shrubs and small trees for spring bloom include the early blooms of deciduous magnolias like star magnolias and tulip magnolias. These are followed by redbuds, dogwood, ornamental peaches and plums, spring blooming viburnums, and fringe trees. In the western parts of the Lower South Texas mountain laurel fills the air with a "grape bubble gum" aroma.

I think the grape-like clusters of blooms on wisteria are a must-have for the southern landscape. Pruned properly this vine can be kept to a tidy trellis or can be trained on a post to develop an upright trunk with an umbrella-shaped, arching top. Our native crossvine is another superb choice, both the straight species and cultivars such as 'Tangerine Beauty' and 'Jekyll'.

When it comes to roses the repeat bloomers get all the love, but there are some "once blooming" cultivars that are with the wait. 'Lady Banks' in both the traditional yellow and more fragrant white forms is a thornless climber that is great for when you need something to cover a large arbor. 'Fortuniana' with its double white 2-inch blooms and glossy green foliage is a good choice for a pillar or as a arching mounded bush. I love the look of 'Fortune's Double Yellow' with its gorgeous loose blooms of apricot yellow to rose colored petals, although its cold hardiness is only to about zone 8.

Although these and many other plants bear their blooms only briefly in the spring, they fill an important place in our landscapes and are well worth their space. There are many other plants that do all their blooming in the spring season. Stop by the blog and share some others that are on your list of favorites.


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