By Kerry Ann Mendez
Why not start off the new gardening season with a riot of color from spring blooming shrubs that are not devoured by deer? Below are five winners that will not disappoint.
There are so many remarkable choices in this genus, all of which are hummingbird magnets! The foliage can be solid green, variegated (many striking variations), dark purple-chocolate, or chartreuse and the large tubular flowers come in shades of pink or red, as well as less common colors of white and yellow. Shrub heights range from 'My Monet' that tops out around 1.5-2 feet to larger specimens like 'Wine and Roses' that can reach 5 feet. The best time to prune Weigela (if needed) is right after the heavy flush of spring blooms. Weigela do best in full to part sun.
I don't understand why this shrub, commonly called Slender Deutzia, tends to be underused. Hopefully this article will change that! Masses of sweet white or pink flowers carried on arching stems will cover its tidy foliage mounds and the foliage can be chartreuse, green or variegated. A number of cultivars continue the show into fall with leaves that turn a lovely burgundy. Heights will range from 1-4 feet. Deutzia benefits from an annual pruning right after spring blooming and they do best in sun to part sun.
With over 150 species (many native to North America), this is a huge genus. The foliage can be shiny, matte, and/or heavily textured. Some, like Doublefile Viburnum, have brilliant fall leaf color. Most Viburnums bloom in spring with white, cream or pink flowers and some are highly fragrant. The flowers can be flat or ball-shaped. Many (not all) Viburnums have colorful fruit that can be red, blue, or black. Hungry birds don't seem to be picky about the color! Most Viburnums do best in full sun but there are also numerous ones that also do fine in part sun or part shade. Estabrook's typically offers 15 top performing varieties for Maine.
Poor Pieris. This attractive, flowering evergreen shrub usually gets overshadowed by better known Rhododendron. Commonly known as Andromeda or Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub, Pieris has white or pink dangling flower clusters that are a favorite and important food source for our native pollinator, the mason bee. The foliage can be shades of green as well as variegated. Some cultivars produce stunning bronze, brilliant pink to scarlet new foliage in spring. Pieris usually grows between 4-6 feet, making it a terrific foundation shrub, although there are now more compact choices like 'Cavatine' that stay around 2-3 feet. Pieris does best in part sun to part shade, and like Rhododendron, requires acid soil. If needed, prune in spring after flowering.
How could I not include this old time favorite? But what isn't "old" is the explosion of new varieties, including strong repeat bloomers as well as those that can be grown in warmer climates like Georgia. The flowers can have single or double petals and range in color from lilac, purple, white, pink and bi-color ('Sensation'). Most lilacs grow between 6-10 feet but some like Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) can soar to 15 feet. Dwarf lilacs, like those in the 'Bloomerang' series, mature to 3-5 feet. No matter the size, all will provide wonderful cut flowers. Lilacs like a sunny spot with good drainage. If pruning is needed, do so right after blooming in spring (even with rebloomers). Estabrook's will be showcasing nearly 20 fragrant beauties this spring.