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Monday, May 20, 2024
Growing Together: Spring white flowering plants
The fragrant snowball viburnum, already in bloom, puts on an amazing display with their large, white, ball-like clusters of sweetly fragrant flowers.  JOANNE YOUNG

We live in such a beautiful area. Spring in Niagara has to be one of the most amazing places to be.  

There just seems to be an explosion of colour as the weather begins to warm up.

I must admit that for an avid plant lover, it can be quite distracting to be out driving while trying to see and identify everything in bloom.

So, if you happen to be following me down the road, just know that I am OK, but distracted by plants.

This past week, while I was out and about, I noticed that there are a lot of white flowering trees and shrubs blooming at this time, some which you may not recognize.

So, I want to introduce you to a few of them now.

Although there are still a lot of trees in bloom at this time, such as crabapples, ornamental cherries, there is one that stands out to me as being different: that is the white redbud tree (Cercis canadensis f. alba).

You may be familiar with the native redbud tree that is more commonly seen. 

You will start to notice trees blooming now with fine, delicate purple-pink blossoms that flower all along the older branches and not just at the tips of the branches.  

Of course, the white redbud opens up early spring, before leaves emerge, with tiny white blossoms. 

The leaves are a medium to large size, heart-shaped leaf. They prefer a sunny to part shade location with good, well-drained soil. The redbud will grow approximately 20 feet tall by 15 feet wall.

There is a broadleaf evergreen to make special mention of that is also blooming currently. 

Along with rhododendrons and azaleas is a plant named Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica), also known as lily-of-the-valley shrub. There are a couple of special features of this plant to make mention of.

As the common name suggests, the pieris has trusses of small white bell-like flowers that resemble lily-of-the-valley.  The flowers even have a sweet-smelling perfume.

As the flowers begin to fade, the plant begins to push out new bright red leaves. The leaves will then fade to a dark green colour. 

You will usually have at least two to three flushes of growth a year and each flush of growth will emerge a bright red. 

So, it is always changing from season to season. 

As with rhododendrons, pieris also prefer a well-drained soil in a part shade location, preferably morning sun and afternoon shade.

One of my favourite flowering shrubs is fothergilla — you might remember that I have written about them before.  

Fothergillas have very unique white, bottlebrush-like flowers and bloom for two to three weeks starting early in May.  

The is no other shrubs like it.

I love having plants in my garden to provide a couple seasons of interest. 

In the fall, the fothergilla’s leaves turn from vibrant golds and oranges to a deep, crimson red. 

Fothergilla is a slow growing shrub reaching only four feet in height, no pruning required.

Another family of white flowering shrubs that are in bloom now, or will be blooming in the next couple of weeks, are the viburnums.

In the viburnum family is a large selection of plants that will grow to all different sizes.  

Already in bloom are the fragrant snowball viburnums (Viburnum carlessii and Viburnum carlcephalum). 

These viburnums put on an amazing display with their large, white, ball-like clusters of sweetly fragrant flowers. 

Following there bloom period, Korean spice viburnum and fragrant snowball viburnum produce berries in the summer and the beautiful wine-red fall colours. 

There are some varieties of viburnums that are lace cap type (flat, lacey clusters) with white, spring flowers. 

One of the lace-cap varieties is the native highbush cranberry viburnum (Viburnum trilobum). 

Besides its large, lacey clusters of white flowers are its clusters of bright red berries ripening in fall into winter, attracting many birds.

Then, there are different varieties of doublefile viburnums, including the smaller growing summer snowflake viburnum and Marie’s doublefile viburnum — so many wonderful species and varieties of Viburnums to look at. 

Viburnums can tolerate full sun to shade. They are one of the best flowering shrubs for a shady location. 

You can find some viburnums that will only grow four feet by four feet and some varieties that can grow all the way up to 10 to 12 feet high and wide.  

As you are out and enoying the beauty that is around us, make sure that you take some time to enjoy some of these white flowering plants.

Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca.

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