When we think spring flowers, we immediately think of crocus, snowdrops, winter aconitum, and hellebores. But early spring interest is not limited to just what you see on the ground. Look up! And you will see harbingers of spring in the tree boughs above you.
WITCH HAZEL - ZONE 3
Hamamelis x intermedia - Grows in full sun to partial shade - Grows 15 to 30 feet tall and wide
This first tree blooms in March and sometimes even in February. This witch hazel is a hybrid of Hamamelis japonica and Hamamelis mollis, and its striking, spidery flowers bloom in clusters of yellow, copper, or orange. This species of witch hazel also has shockingly fabulous fall color.
Too often people don’t buy witch hazel because they are done blooming by the time retail nurseries are in full swing. But you are missing out! These blooms are wonderfully fragrant—plant one near the entrance you use most and you will be rewarded with the delicious scent before any other signs of spring.
Visit any high-quality garden center and check out the many different varieties of this marvelous hybrid.
EASTERN PANSY REDBUD - ZONE 5
Cercis canadensis - Grows in full sun to partial shade - Grows 20 to 25 feet tall and wide
Covered in tiny flower buds in the spring, sometimes they look as though they are covered in thick velvet. The buds open into small delicate fairy flowers and then the delicate heart-shaped foliage emerges. It’s hard to say which phase is more beautiful. This is a Victoria Gardens’ favorite! (You can see these trees in person along the rail trail on Route 209 in Kingston and Marbletown.)
MAGNOLIA x BUTTERFLY - ZONE 5
Magnolia X ‘Buttefly’Grows in full sun to partial shade
Grows 15 to 30 feet tall and wide
Few species can match the elegant drama of this specimen in full bloom. It has luminous, pale yellow, cup-shaped flowers that seem to glow on the bare branches in late spring. Magnolia flower buds are susceptible to late-season frosts. Plant in areas protected from high winds.
STAR MAGNOLIA - ZONE 5
Magnolia stellata Grows in full sun to partial shade
Grows 10 to 20 feet tall and wide
Opening in early spring before the leaves unfurl, the flowers are mildly fragrant, snowy white double flowers from mid-March through April. Newly emerging leaves are bronzy and quick to turn green. We often see these magnolias bloom again in summer and early autumn—just a random bloom or two—when the foliage is most lush.