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Early Blooms in New England

Early Blooms in New England
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Gardeners know winter really does end, and spring color always returns.

Pansies, daffodils, and forsythia commonly herald the vernal transition, but still other blooms also contribute to a stunning early-season display.

Here’s how three New England gardens host diverse plantings that strut their stuff in April and May.

Spring Bulbs

Garden designer and author Steve Silk loves to create lavish spectacles with bright-colored spring bulbs.

His wife, Kate Emery, shares his enthusiasm for eye-popping displays at their garden in Farmington, Connecticut. “We’re starved for color after winter’s monochromes,” Steve says, “so we’re not shy about using a bright palette.”

Each fall, Steve and Kate choose a different color scheme for the hundreds of tulips they plant. They strive to produce the most drama along the walkway leading from their driveway to a fieldstone terrace along the back of their Colonial-style home. One recent extravaganza featured yellow and fiery-orange tulips.

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Crabapple Majesty

The garden around Gordon and Mary Hayward‘s renovated circa-1770 farmhouse in Westminster West, Vermont, just north of Putney, relies on a sense of formality in its layout. An important aspect of this framework is an allee of crabapple trees. Serving as the entry into the garden, this symmetrical “orchard” invites visitors to enjoy a leisurely stroll.

In midspring, the crabapple trees they planted 15 years ago evoke an ethereal majesty when cloaked in their wispy blooms. “For me,” Gordon notes, “it’s an echo of my childhood growing up in an orchard in New Hartford, Connecticut.”

The Haywards chose three different varieties that bloom simultaneously in mid-May. Malus ‘Prairie Fire’ produces pinkish buds that open to whitish-pink blooms; ‘Sugar Tyme’ features pink buds that burst into fragrant white flowers; ‘Adams’ bears carmine buds that open into reddish-pink flowers.

The crabapples continue to earn their keep throughout the seasons, especially in winter, when the leafless trees add shapely architecture to this garden. Each variety also produces abundant fruit in shades of red. The small fruits start appearing in September and persist until a flock of cedar waxwings finishes them off in late March.

Growing beneath the trees are hardy geraniums, barrenworts, and a dark-red-leaved bugleweed, inspired by a design the couple saw at a garden in England’s Cotswold Hills, near where Mary grew up. A path of stepping stones provides access through the allee and is punctuated by a ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood in a large terra-cotta pot, another touch gleaned from British gardens.

The Haywards clearly enjoy merging influences from New England with those from “Old” England to create a welcoming garden that resonates with personal meaning.

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Updated Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

One Response to Early Blooms in New England

  1. Jeff Folger February 4, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    very beautiful and I can’t wait for spring flowers…

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