If you are the type of person who always tends to get spring fever this time of the year, your landscape can help make it easier in the future. Plan your garden to incorporate different trees, shrubs, and perennial flowers that will bring you spring as soon as possible.
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood, Cornus mas, is one of the earliest plants to break from winter dormancy in Nebraska. There was one of these planted next to the Plant Science building on East Campus at UNL where I studied for many years. I always enjoyed seeing it pop those small yellow buds in late February to early March to prove to me that winter wouldn’t last forever. Cornelian Cherry Dogwood can be grown as a large shrub or small tree, depending on how it is pruned.
Forsythia, Forsythia x intermedia, is a more commonly known early spring blooming shrub. This shrub blooms with bright yellow, finger-like flowers in March, typically. This is a shrub that is very easy to care for, but it can get overgrown, so it should be pruned often to maintain its size and shape. Every year, you can remove 1/3 of the largest branches from the shrub and
prune them off at ground level to reduce the size and remove the oldest, least productive branches.
Redbud, Cercis canadensis, is one of my favorite plants for spring color. It typically blooms in April-May with beautiful violet to pink blooms all along the branches. Whitebud, C. alba, is similar to redbud, but with white blooms instead of pink. This tree is best grown as an understory tree, so choose a location with part shade. After the blooming period, the tree has nice, green, heart-shaped leaves through the summer and into the fall when they turn golden yellow.
Be careful with pesticides in the lawn around redbuds, however, as they are very sensitive to 2,4-D. The leaves will often cup up and develop an irregular leaf edge with dark and light green striping, as if the leaf was stretched out, due to herbicide drift.
Magnolia is another amazing tree for spring color. There are many species of magnolia, but not all do well in Nebraska. A couple of those best adapted include saucer magnolia, Magnolia soulangiana, and star magnolia, M. stellata. Saucer magnolia blooms with the pink blooms and star magnolia has white blooms. Magnolias should be in a location where they are a bit protected from winter winds. The blooms of magnolias are often destroyed by a late spring frost causing the flowers to shrivel up and turn brown soon after opening up.
There are a lot of great spring blooming bulbs that can be used in the landscape for early color. Many of my favorites include tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, snowdrops, and scilla. A great collection of many varieties and species of these bulbs will bring season-long beauty and an assortment of color throughout the spring.
The bulbs mentioned above all bloom in the spring but they need to be planted in the fall. Take note now and begin to plan your fall plantings where there are gaps amongst the other plants or areas where color is necessary through spring.