Right now a visit to my favorite garden center sits high on my agenda. I’m in search of plants that dazzle in the spring, some luscious colors, great foliage, and unusual shapes—a bit of horticultural “bling.” If I choose the right jewels, the garden will look even better next year.
Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa and kin, Zones 4–8) define anticipation. See one in bloom and you’ll understand why they have been desired for millennia. My favorites are the classic ‘Joseph Rock’ and the exquisite Japanese ‘Yae-zakura’ (“host of cherry blossoms”), with its delicate pale pink petals. Grow these woody-stemmed peonies in part shade and celebrate their flowering with a party.
The golden sunset colors of Heuchera ‘Amber Waves’ (USDA Zones 4–8) are only one of the charms of this glamorous coral bells created by maestro Dan Heims. Dainty pink blooms complement the ruffled foliage as it lights up spring gardens. The leaves keep on glowing through to fall.
When you find a really good redbud, grab it. Cercis chinensis ‘Don Eholf’ (Zones 6–9) is a spring star, covered with luminous mauve flowers followed by rich dark green leaves. Named in honor of the National Arboretum’s famed plantsman, this redbud works well in small gardens, maturing to six to eight feet.
A woodland of birches rising from a sea of pink and white foxgloves—this dream scene can be produced at home. Buy half a dozen pots of biennial Digitalis purpurea (Zones 4–8) this year and let a couple set seed. It’s the first step to many magical springs.—Nan Sinton
Sources, page 80.