Marianne Binetti

Marianne Binetti: Shrubs, trees seek new homes this time of year

We live in an age when science, marketing and a whole bunch of local nurseries make it possible for gardeners in Western Washington to have first dibs on easy-to-grow shrubs. May is the month to search out the best new shrubs and trees when nurseries are well-stocked and ripe with the promise of finding something new and different.

First Editions White Diamonds hydrangea: This is a “peegee” hydrangea which means it can take full sun and will not turn blue or pink but bloom in the summer with pointed white panicle flowers fading to a creamy pink in the fall.

What makes this hydrangea easy to grow is that it is more compact than the typical Hydrangea panicalata. This hydrangea survives our cold, damp winters and was introduced by Bailey Nurseries out of Minnesota so you know it can handle a deep-winter freeze and still flower. The name “First Editions” in front of the cultivar name of “White Diamonds” means this hydrangea earned a patent for being a shrub that is different, improved and amazingly beautiful.

Choisya Sundance Mexican Orange: Here is an evergreen shrub that will thrive in the shade and offers not only fragrant white blooms but glistening gold new foliage every spring. Mexican Orange is not related to the citrus family but was given the common name because of the sweet smell of the blossoms that reminds California growers of orange blossoms.

In Western Washington, Choisya is a great substitute for rhododendrons under the filtered sunlight of tall evergreens as the lime green and gold foliage helps to light up the shaded areas of the garden. As an added surprise, the newly cut foliage can be brought indoors to use with cut flowers and the fresh citrus scent clings to the leaves long after the flowers have faded.

If you have a deep purple Japanese maple in your garden, pair it up with the golden foliage of Choisya Sundance Mexican Orange for a match made in designer heaven.

Crape myrtle Largerstroemia First Editions Coral Magic — or Midnight Magic or Plum Magic: Just when I thought I could not want another tree in my garden, along comes a winter hardy and mildew resistant crape myrtle. Attractive peeling bark, clusters of vivid blooms in late summer and fall leaf color make this a tree or shrub that offers year-round appeal. The big improvements mean that even if this crape myrtle is hit by a freak snow storm in early autumn, this heat-loving plant will come back from its established root system.

This shrubby tree would be a wonderful gift to anyone that admired the bright blooms in late summer on these trees in warmer climates as they are usually found showing off in Texas and Southern California. I have seen these hardy crape myrtles for sale at local nurseries this spring. My advice to is buy them early because once they flower in late summer every tree still left at the nursery will sell quickly.

Not only are the blooms arranged in large, showy clusters but the colors are deep and vivid in shades of purple, plum or coral. Grow crape myrtle in full sun, the hotter the better and protected from cold winds. Once established this plant is drought resistant.