Granted, “hanami,” the Japanese cherry blossom festival, is usually associated with white and pink flowers, but spring of course offers up many other colors. There’s an entire array of ornamental shrubs that bloom early in the year before leafing out and which bring dashes of red or yellow color to the garden. 

Among springtime’s popular picks is Forsythia, a shrub that grows about as tall as a person and which, depending on the variety, adorns itself from March onward in a highly visible, vivid yellow gown. The Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), the Kerria (Kerria japonica), and the buttercup witch hazel (Corylopsis pauciflora) all also bud out in yellow.

The Cornelian cherry is very robust, growing from 12 to more than 20 feet high. Although their flowers are quite small, they grow together in thick clusters, making the shrub a particular gem of a plant.

The remarkable bowl flowers of the Kerria are golden yellow, while the light yellow bell flowers of the buttercup witch hazel hang together in twos or threes from their delicate shoots and smell sweet. Both shrubs reach about 4.5 feet. While the Kerria works in both shady and sunny spots, the witch hazel should be protected from cold northerly and easterly winds.

The bright red flower petals of the ornamental quince (Chaenomeles) and the deep red flower clusters of the ornamental flowering current (Ribes sanguineum) devote themselves to announcing spring with all their might, every year. Their play of colors makes for a bold contrast to the woody plants that bloom yellow, white, or tender pink.

Early bloomers are not just eye candy for us. Because of their unusual blooming time, they also offer a valuable first food source for bees and other insects. There’s a wide selection of early blooming plants that can be used to make the springtime garden into a sea of blossoms. Shrubs can be used together in a group, or even formed into an imposing flower hedge. If you plant right, you’ll enjoy a variety of colors and flowers every spring.


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