Monday, April 23, 2007

In Bloom This Week in NYC

First, a reminder. If you haven't yet gotten out to see the magnolias in bloom, treat yourself to a walk, today!
Some times when we focus on ground cover plants for their foliage we forget that they too flower. Pachysandra is certainly a reliable and durable ground cover in New York. The flowers actually have a sweet scent to them, but they are not always so easy to come by. Plant Pachysandra in rich, well-drained soil to get established, and it will do very well for you. Tolerates deep shade. Do keep in mind that Pachysandra terminalis is one aggressive spreader and left unattended it can get a little out of control, especially in the country. For a less aggressive grower, check out the native variety, Pachysandra procumbens.
The cherry trees have definitely popped!
Cherry trees, like pears (below) and crabapples (not quite yet), are members of the rose family (Rosaceae); they have the picturesque five-petaled flower botanists know all too well. You can usually tell the cherries apart with their smooth bark and pronounced horizontal lenticels. As far as their shape, most want to spread out, but there is lots of variation among the different species.
When the pears around the city bloom you can't help but notice. Most likely 'Bradford' Callery pears, these trees are known for their small habit and profuse cloud-like bloom in spring. But don't allow the wool to be pulled over your eyes, these trees are structurally a really bad choice in the landscape. Next time you walk by one, look and see where all the branches fork out, and you will realize that they all emerge from the same spot. Over time added layers of bark end up wedging against each other, eventually promoting this tree to completely split in more ways than one. Not a tree I would quick to plant. Some newer varieties have a better smell to them.
Along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade I found these rhododendrons putting out a fabulous bloom this morning. I would guess by the smaller leaf and flower that they are 'P.J.M. ' hybrids but I couldn't get close enough to ID to species. Here they are in a perfect spot, slightly protected, dappled shade, decent water, and airflow.
Muscari are tiny bulbs in the lily family (Liliaceae). Each bloom is only 4" to 6" tall, but they do have great character for a small flower. Plant in the fall for spring bloom. Well-drained soil, full sun.

Monday, April 9, 2007

In Bloom This Week in NYC

With its gray bark and red spring blossoms, red maples (Acer rubrum) are easy to spot from a distance in the spring landscape. The dense cluster of red flowers has reddish pedicels that elongate as the flowers develop from March into April. Leaves will emerge slightly red and mature to a dark green with a gray underside.

Creeping myrtle (Vinca minor) is an evergreen groundcover that creates a thick carpet of small glossy green leaves. Even though this plant spreads well and has a delicate lavender blossom in spring beware that it is invasive if not maintained. After entirely too much time devoted to removing Vinca from creeping into natural woodlands I would not recommend this plant for the country.

Granted, the willows in Central Park are not blooming, they simply leaf-out earlier than many other trees, but what a fabulous hint of all the green soon to come!

Forsythia are popular because they are early and prolific blooming shrubs. Quick growers in full sun, you can cut them back pretty hard after they flower in spring and still expect a good shot of yellow blossoms the following year.

Not until this year did I realize how many Cornus mas there are planted in Central Park. The small clusters of yellow blossoms that form along the stems are not the most showy, but they still provide a nice subtle bloom while most other shrubs are still dormant. They can mature to have beautiful natural forms, and you will find birds attracted to the edible fruit in a couple months. At an old job a friend and I discovered one that was really sweet and we didn’t mind picking from it ourselves.

With their almost electric blue color, blue squill (Scilla siberica) is a striking early spring bulb. Native to Russia and southwest Asia, blue squill only reaches about 6 inches tall. However, when you come across patches of them in the landscape you quickly realize how powerful they can be when planted in mass.

Classified into 12 divisions, I could talk about daffodils (Nacissus spp.) for days. But what you really need to know? Plant them in the fall and make sure they are deep enough to avoid frost damage. Daffodils are deer and squirrel resistant, and with so many cultivars to choose from you should be able to find one that strikes your fancy.

Magnolias (Magnolia spp.) are one of the best early bloomers with their pronounced buds opening to large flowers. The flowers are not quite open yet, but keep your eyes out because you won’t want to miss them. Magnolias showy flowers and manageable size make them one of my spring favorites.

Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica) is an upright broadleaf evergreen shrub. The buds set last summer are now long weeping racemose panicles of small white flowers that may have a subtle fragrance. A slow grower, mature specimens of this shrub are something to admire.

Others that were still holding on to some flowers but not enough to photograph:
crocus (Crocus sp.)
serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.)
winter rose (Helleborus sp.)
winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)