Beauty bush: My favourite shrub–this month, anyway

beauty bush/ gazeboThe amabilis in Kolkwitzia amabilis–beauty bush’s botanical name, after Richard Kolkwitz, a German botanist from the 20th century–means lovely, and that’s an apt if understated description of this old-fashioned, dependable and flower-laden shrub.

Add “fragrant” to its list of attributes. Continue reading

Will your spring-flowering shrubs survive the frigid winter?


Wisteria is gloriously, delicately mauve and hypnotically fragrant in June, as long as the buds haven’t been frozen over winter or in a late spring frost.


“Everyone talks about this winter’s storm damage to tree branches, but no one mentions the effect the cold may have had on spring-flowering shrubs and trees,” commented my friend Douglas Markoff as we chatted about the weather (what else?) last week.  Continue reading

Witch hazel: a sure sign that spring is near

Hamamelis X intermedia 'Diane'

Hamamelis X intermedia ‘Diane’

Late last week I was at the kitchen sink gazing out the window at the snow-covered garden when my eye caught flashes of deep copper-maroon on the witch hazel near the side of the house.
“The first sign of spring!” I shouted with joy, scaring Rufus away from Jake’s bowl, where he was surreptitiously scarfing down the remains of Jake’s breakfast.
I rushed out immediately and took a picture of Hamamelis X intermedia ‘Diane’, a lovely shrub I forget about until suddenly its fringe-like blossoms trumpet spring on a cold February morning. It’s important to preserve these moments to share with your gardening buddies.
Then I rushed down to the end of the garden to check out H. X intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’, ‘Diane’s brother cultivar, which blooms in a pretty yellow. Eureka! it was starting to show too. Continue reading