As I have mentioned on a previous post or two, I have a penchant for white flowers. And there’s no better time of year to see some of my favorites on grand display than right now. Whether if it’s the white Chinese Snowball Viburnum poofs weighing down its branches…or the dainty flower of the Reeves’ Spirea – that explodes up and out with its 1000’s of neighboring flowers in cascading bows…or the airy Flowering Dogwood, speckling the woodlands with white – each makes me want to add more and more into my landscape. All 3 of these white spring flowers help me look forward to the bright, clean beauty and life that comes this time of year.
Many friends will ask me what type of white hydrangea I have busting at their seams lining my driveway. Although they do look like the flowers of a mophead hydrangea and the color of an Annabelle hydrangea, these crazy beautiful flowers are actually from a Chinese Snowball Viburnum (Viburnum macrocephalum). This semi-evergreen shrub is an awesome addition to any appropriate landscape if you’re looking to make a bold statement. Although the plant itself is nice and does provide some fall/winter interest…it’s really their flowers that provide all the wow.
From April into June you’ll enjoy a bounty of huge (6-8 inch) flowers…that start out an apple green and then move into a crisp white. Now make sure to give them room to grow…they can get 20 feet high and 15 feet wide…depending on how much they like where you’ve planted them (they like full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil).
Since Britt loves bringing our flowers and plants inside, the added bonus to us is that we can bring in just a few stems stacked with these white beauties to make a dramatic arrangement. Or simply clip off one flower and put it in a bud vase. Either brings a bit of life inside.
As is the case with many homes in suburban neighborhoods, I have a telephone pole at the corner of my property with a couple of lovely guy-wires stretching 15 feet into my yard…with even lovelier yellow plastic covers screaming, “Hey, look at me…I’m an ugly man-made wire!”. My first attempt at de-emphasizing these wires was to (illegally, I’m sure) yank off the yellow covers…only for them to be replaced within weeks. I then went searching for a plant that would attempt to hide this eye-sore…and boy did I find one.
I purchased 3 Reeves’ Spirea (Spiraea cantoniensis…also known as Double Bridal Wreath, Double Reeves’ Spirea)…placing them about 2 or 3 feet apart. Within about a year or two they were doing what I expected them to…generally blocking the guy-wires and their yellow covers. But now, about 8 years later, they have essentially swallowed them whole. Although they are supposed to grow only 4-6 feet wide and tall, mine have grown about 8 or 9 feet tall and about as wide (so you’ll need to give them room to spread their wings). Clearly, they thrive in the sunny, well-drained spot that I needed them to perform in.
On the way out of our driveway this morning, Mere-Bear looked over at them and said that they looked like “white fireworks”…and they do. Although the individual flower is small, they grow in clusters…and then these clusters fully cover their long bows…and are on full display this time of year for the world to enjoy. If you need to prune them you can (but try to resist!), but do so right after they bloom since their flowers bud on “old wood”. Even though they are deciduous, the thick branching structure still does its job covering up the ever-present guy-wires.
If there was one tree that I would choose to put in a landscape to create an under-story, it would be the Flowering Dogwood…or Florida Dogwood (Cornus florida). To me…there are few things that say home more than the dogwood. I don’t think it’s because I’m from Florida (and I can honestly say I don’t think I ever saw one when I lived there as a child!)…it’s more likely because Flowering Dogwoods are all over the place in Nashville and Atlanta…where I’ve lived since high school.
They are purposefully planted into many home landscapes, and because they are easily propagated by seed (by birds) they are also found growing wild throughout our woodlands. I think I’m drawn so much to them because of their more natural habit. They are unassuming and provide an interesting texture to your landscape. Also, since our backyard is already fairly shady, Cornus florida is a great under-story option, without providing a great deal of additional shade.
If you want a dogwood, but all you have are sunnier spots, try the Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa). Although they flower a month later (after they leaf-out), they still have the white bract flowers you’ve come to love. I’ve also found that they get bigger and fuller than their more understated, gangly cousin.
Also, at this time of year, the dogwood blossom has symbolic significance to those of us who celebrate Easter. As the “legend of the dogwood” suggests – the 4 petals form a cross, at the center and end of each petal there is a rust-red stain, and at the center there’s a crown of thorns. With all the dyed Easter eggs, Easter egg birdseed ornaments (ha!), and chocolate bunnies…gazing at a simple dogwood blossom helps my family and me rightly consider what we’re really celebrating.
So now you know my 3 favorite white spring flowers. What are yours? I’d love to know…so please share.
Now get out there and redeem your day…and redeem some ground while you’re at it!