Late spring blooming shrubs sometime take a backseat to their more impatient counterparts that flower in the wake of Old Man Winter's departure. Those earliest spring flowers are rightly admired for their timeliness, putting a smile on one's face after months of cold weather. But let's not slight the later bloomers. Some are among the finest bushes in the landscaping world. Choosing between them is just a matter of knowing your priorities. Examples follow that will please you whether you simply love fragrant flowers or expect a shrub to produce nice fall foliage in addition to floral color in May and June.
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This orange azalea blooms slightly later than another orange-flowered kind, Golden Oriole, which also bears flowers of a lighter color. A deciduous azalea, the shrub also furnishes fine fall foliage. But the main selling point for Rhododendron Gibraltar is that, if you like orange, then there is no better way to kick off May than with the boldly colored blooms of this Exbury-type azalea.
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Like Gibraltar azalea, Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum Mariesii, a type of doublefile viburnum, has a precursor in the landscape from the same genus, namely, the fragrant Koreanspice viburnum. Whereas the latter begins flowering in April usually, May is Mariesii's time to shine. Another May bloomer in this genus is the viburnum known as "snowball bush."
In discussing a "bloom time" for doublefile viburnum, however, it is important to point out that the showy parts that you think of as the "flowers" are really sepals, not the true flowers (which are much smaller). Those of you familiar with hydrangeas will appreciate the distinction: Sepals last much longer, thereby giving you superior display value.
Doublefile viburnums are best known as great bloomers and for the unusual way in which their flowers line up along their branches, two by two. Under the right conditions, they also bear attractive berries and fall foliage.
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Unlike their better-known perennial counterparts (Paeonia lactiflora), tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) are classified as sub-shrubs. They do not sport the heady fragrance of Paeonia lactiflora, which bloom a bit later in May. There is no denying the beauty of their flowers, though, which can measure 7 1/2 inches across.
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While technically categorized as a tree, the growth habit of this pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia Golden Shadows) qualifies it for inclusion on this list of late spring blooming shrubs. It tends to grow horizontally quicker than it does vertically, and for years it will act more as a shrub in your landscaping than as a tree.
Regardless of how you classify it, the main point is that this is a multifaceted plant of great beauty. It is grown primarily for its variegated leaves, which are at their best in spring. Its flat-topped clusters of white flowers so typical of dogwood shrubs are just a bonus when they come along in May or June. The dark-colored berries that follow are moderately interesting. But what you will value most after the spring foliage is the unusual color of the autumn leaves.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Diablo ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius Diablo) is another late spring flowering shrub (blooms in May or June in a zone-5 garden) that most gardeners would grow more for its leaves than for its flowers. The namers of the cultivar must have agreed, because it is named for its devilishly dark-colored foliage. The leaves become even more interesting when, in autumn, they take on tinges of red and/or bronze.
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Plant a golden weigela next to a Diablo ninebark to achieve a striking color contrast. This is one of four weigelas commonly grown, the other three being:
- Wine and Roses, a type with dark leaves
- A variegated variety
- The traditional Weigela florida
The golden weigela is the prettiest of them all.
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You may already know mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) to be a late spring flowering shrub if you live in New England (U.S.), where this bush covers many a forest floor. The woods are alive with mountain laurel's flowers during the month of June. The Minuet cultivar is more colorful than the wild plant and well worth adding to one's landscaping.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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As late spring becomes summer, spireas come into their own. The blossoms of all of the various types of spireas are seen everywhere in May and June, brightening people's yards. But with Gold Mound spirea (and the similar Goldflame) you get a two-for-one deal: pink flowers plus golden leaves. As good as that sounds, it gets better, because this bush is not merely a late spring standout: In autumn, a hint of red comes into the leaves, making it an interesting plant for the fall landscape, as well.
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There is no other sight that quite marks the end of spring and the beginning of summer like lilacs in bloom. Breathing in the perfume from their marvelously fragrant flowers almost justifies the transition from the moderate temperatures of spring that we so enjoy to the more challenging climate of summer.
Once those higher temperatures do arrive, the baton is passed on to the early summer flowering shrubs.
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Pearlbush (Exochorda racemosa) gets its name from the shape of its flower buds before they open. Once they do open, you are presented with a bright-white, five-petaled flower. Bloom time in zone 5 is May. This shrub will produce a lot of flowers for you, while demanding very little care from you. It tolerates drought well. If you don't like growing the same plants that everyone else grows, you will appreciate pearlbush, as relatively few gardeners grow it. Those who do grow it value it most for the odd shape of its unopened buds.