Spring dreamin’: Cold, wet winter can’t keep a good gardener down

With better weather around the corner, now’s the time to explore new shrubs, trees, roses — even perennials and annuals.

Cuphea Hummingbird Lunch

Cuphea Hummingbird Lunch

If you are anything like me, you are probably feeling sick and tired of this cold, wet weather.

I hate to say it, but I have had zero motivation to get out in the yard and do all the things that need doing. The only real solution is to distract myself with seed and plant catalogs and dream about all the new exciting introductions that I will simply have to find a home for once it warms up and dries out. Join me in exploring some of the following goodies that I will be looking for this month and beyond.

Japanese maples

With literally hundreds of varieties to choose from, one can only wonder if we really need more, but of course the only answer is … absolutely! Here are two from Iseli Nursery’s Pacific Rim collection in Boring, Oregon.

• Acer x pal Wabi Sabi: With a spectacular weeping habit and character, this variety grows best in full and good drainage. Mature size is about 7 feet tall and 10 feet wide in the garden. Foliage is bright green in spring, turning incredible shades of red, yellow and orange in the fall. Showy red seeds point up to add interest, and a white color to the bark adds interest, as well.

• Acer x pal Origami: This variety is perfect for small gardens and container growing. It does best in full sun or part shade with good drainage, maturing at about 8 feet tall and wide with a bushy upright habit. Lime green-colored foliage in spring is followed by orange and yellow color tones in the fall. Its great form and interesting, two-tone green foliage in the summer months is very nice.


There are always several new rose introductions every year, but this one in particular stands out if you are looking for a completely disease-free variety with bountiful blooms all summer long.

• Sultry Night shrub rose: This features large flowers in magenta pink with hints of blue. Each petal has a lighter reverse, adding a mystical shine to this shrub rose and an unforgettable heat to the garden. Sultry Night features a sweet grapefruit fragrance.


March is Magnolia Month in my book. Also known as tulip trees or saucer magnolias, these trees make a perfect focal point in the garden, growing to 25 feet tall and just as wide. The following variety only gets 10 feet wide, so it is a much better fit for the smaller yard.

• Magnolia Sunsation: This sports unique, large 7-foot tulip flowers that are golden yellow flushed with some pink at the base. It has large green foliage all summer long and vibrant yellow fall color. It does best in full sun with good drainage.


Ever since the introduction of the repeat blooming Endless Summer series, there have been new variations every year. Keep your eyes peeled for this one.

• Hydrangea macrophylla Pop Star: Repeat blooming lacecap flowers are showy from late spring until frost, their color being blue (acidic) or pink (alkaline). It has a super tidy and compact habit, perfect for small spaces and container growing in part shade. Cut back if needed in early spring.


There is never a shortage of new perennials to choose from, and the following are some exciting variations of some of the most tried and true varieties.

• Astilbe Dark Side of the Moon: Its foliage emerges yellowish with dark edges and matures to a rich, dark chocolate purple. It grows into clumps about 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide, producing rosy purple flowers starting in early summer. It likes some water and is perfect in sun (with water) or shade.

• Hakonechloa macra Lemon Zest: This is a Japanese forest grass with unique variegation — both ivory white and lemon yellow. It has incredible foliage color to brighten up shady gardens, eventually turning to pinky red in the fall before going dormant. Clumps grow to about a foot tall and 2 feet wide, spreading slowly with time.

• Polemonium Golden Feathers: This Jacob’s ladder boasts sumptuous gold and green variegated foliage sure to add color and texture to the shade or partial shade garden. Its purplish flowers bloom in late spring.


While the following annuals won’t show up in garden centers until late April or May, watch for them never the less.

• Cuphea Hummingbird Lunch: Known as cigar plants, these compact woody annuals have always intrigued me. As the name implies, this one is an absolute hummingbird magnet all summer long. Its hot colored, tubular flowers keep on coming throughout the entire summer, too.

• Mandevillea Coral Orange Sunrise: This produces coral-orange blooms all summer long. It loves some support as a container centerpiece, or it can be used as a trailing plant in baskets.

You will find most of these shrubs, trees and roses available now, while the perennials will trickle in this month and the annuals won’t show up until April and May.

In addition to this very abbreviated list, garden centers will have many, many more choices as the season unfolds. Shop early and often for the best selection. In the meantime, stay warm and keep dreaming; spring will be here soon!

Steve Smith represents Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at sunnysidenursery@msn.com.

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