Crisp & Clean…White Spring Flowers
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.
Chinese Snowball Viburnum
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!
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Don’t forget about that graceful maiden of azaleas, Mrs. G.G. Gerbing.
Another favorite is white bearded iris, but my favorite is actually a pale blue variety called Cloud Ballet – the most elegant hue of blue found in a flower.
Bill…dadgum, you beat me to the punch! Mrs. G.G. Gerbing, the “graceful maiden of azaleas”…forms the backbone of my backyard. She too is one of my favorite white spring flowers. Had she already bursted forth in all her white grandeur I would have included her in this post. She will probably get a post of her own on a different topic in the next couple of weeks. I’ll check out the irises you recommended. Personally, I’ve never used them in my landscape…primarily because I have very few, if any, spots that get enough sun; but they are beautiful. Thanks for the suggestions. Take care, D.
Love, love, love viburnum! I don’t know this variety and wonder if it would thrive here in RI. I love the variety that is super fragrant as they remind me of my birthday as they would bloom around that time.
Tyra…thanks for your comment my friend! Yes…the Chinese Snowball Viburnum is amazingly beautiful…as are most all Viburnums this time of year. That said, if you’re looking for one with a fragrance, this is not the one to get. In fact, the Chinese Snowball Viburnum is the viburnum of choice for those who are irritated by the fragrance of other viburnums…essentially having no scent at all. If you still want to give it a try…I’d check with a local nursery to see what their thoughts are. Chinese Snowball Viburnums thrive in zones 7-9…and RI is 6a-7a. Given that you are on the water…and if you planted it in a protected area, you should be good to go; but again, I’d check with a local nursery to see what they think. Thanks again for your comment Tyra…great to hear from you. Take care, D.
Kev and I have been spotting several Reeves’ Spirea this year and didn’t know what they were! SO funny that you posted about them. They have been my favorite this year. Do you know if they come in any other colors? I think we will want to do the white ones at our next home. So beautiful!
Brandi: That is quite the coincidence. Spirea do come in other colors…pinks, purples, and blues. That said…at least the ones I have seen, the flowers on the spirea that aren’t white have a different habit…they form more in clumps vs. the arching bows that you see with the Reeves’ Spirea. In general, I have a think for white flowers…if you haven’t noticed…I also particularly like how the Reeves’ Spirea uniquely burst up and out with their cascading branches. Let me know if you need any other information my friend. Take care, D.
Thanks Doug…great info! I love the Chinese Snowball Viburnum. We have some in our backyard and I love bringing them in too. I never knew the name of them, so thanks for that info…
Glad to give you a face for the name…err, a name to the flower! There are a ton of Viburnum to choose from. I particularly like these because of how profound their flowers are…allowing you to make a sizable arrangement, or clip off one flower and put in a mason jar. It’s also nice that they don’t have much of a fragrance at all…essentially none. Britt’s nose gets all itchy with too many fragrances wafting around…so these are great to bring into our home. We brought a ton in yesterday for our Easter Brunch. Take care friend, D.
Doug, I love getting your blog…. the chicken coop is my favorite… Miss you and give your beautiful family my best.
Oh Meesh…Vera…Lipsy…great to hear from you! Thanks so much! I really appreciate your encouraging words and support my dear, long-ago-but-like-it-was-yesterday-friend! Please let us know when you’re coming through Atlanta again! We’d love to see as many of you and yours as possible! Take care, D.