When the northern winter seems too long, satisfy your longing for spring with the numerous early-flowering shrubs at Wave Hill. Among the most beautiful are the winter hazels, Corylopsis. The pale yellow, lightly fragrant flowers of the winter hazels hang from bare branches in delicate racemes. In the Shade Border, Corylopsis glabrescens surrounded by Galanthus, snowdrops, provides a cheerful harbinger of spring. Corylopsis pauciflora, C. sinensis and the hybrid C. x ‘Winterthur’ welcome you at the Front Gate. Close by, the white flowering quince Chaenomeles japonica ‘Jet Trail’ enlivens the entrance path. Two heavenly scented early bloomers are Chimonanthus praecox, wintersweet, nestled against the brick wall just outside the entrance to Glyndor House, and Lonicera fragrantissima, winter honeysuckle, planted at the east end of the Shade Border.
Pairing these shrubs with the earliest blooming bulbs and perennials enhances the heartening display. Chionodoxa sardensis, naturalized and ubiquitous at Wave Hill, makes up for its diminutive size with plentiful flowers of a stunning shade of blue. Aptly named glory-of-the-snow, they launch the spring parade. They are striking paired with the chartreuse of Cornus mas, the March-blooming Cornelian cherry. Hellebores are also hopeful signs of spring. The unusual purple-black Helleborus atrorubens blooms at the entrance to the Flower Garden; other species and hybrids can be viewed on the hillside above the walkway behind the Potting Shed. Don’t miss the creamy-yellow hybrid hellebores behind the bench just east of the Flower Garden fence. Nearby, Spiraea prunifolia and S. thunbergii light up with white sprays of spring flowers.
To plan your own “I can’t wait for Spring” garden site, watch for places where the sun melts the snow first. When you find a sheltered, sunny site, mix a shrub or two with clumps of early-blooming bulbs and perennials. Though some of these shrubs may not win a beauty contest outside of this time, they reward the winter visitor with their encouragingly early, fragrant flowers. In the Potting Shed, the appearance of their blooms is proclaimed amongst the winter weary gardeners; these plants are well worth seeking out for a spot in your own garden.
Marilyn Young is Horticultural Assistant at Wave Hill.