The epitome of spring often comes from a sense that has nothing to do with seeing the blossoms of the season.
It's all about scent.
Sweet. Citrus. Fresh. Spring.
Honeysuckle. Lilacs. Ornamentals.
Bleeding heart, also known as dicentra, is a shade-loving plant that produces distinctive green leaves and arching stems of pink or rosy-red heart-shaped flowers. The perennial blooms in May and June. It provides color without a perfume scent for those more sensitive to fragrances. Companion plants include hostas and ferns.
Returning flowering shrubs add welcome color and aroma, wafting in through open windows, filling area yards with enough to satisfy several senses. And all before the summer's arrival of pests attack in force.
A little work now can result in enjoyment of those benefits this season and in years to come.
"It is the perfect time to be out planting and you are planting now so you get to enjoy it for the summer time," said Julie Lachelt, Acorn Nursery and Landscaping, north of Brainerd.
"It was a very difficult winter on young plants and old plants," Lachelt said, but with those winter kills comes an opportunity to try something new.
Fragrant alyssum provides sweet scents all summer. The annual makes an ideal border plant and works in container gardens as well. This variety is called carpet of snow, but alyssum comes in a variety of colors, including a golden hue and an Easter basket mix of lavender, pink/white, rosy pink and violet. The plants do well in full sun to part shade.
Trees and shrubs can be planted any time of year, but Lachelt said they recommend people plant now so the trees and shrubs get a good chance to establish themselves before fall.
Lachelt said common purple lilacs are still the most popular and one of the most fragrant. Gardeners may expect blossoms the same year a shrub is planted if they are buying an older version. For smaller landscape areas there are dwarf lilacs or miniature options.
The vast majority of lilacs grow to a mature height of 10 to 12 feet. But there are smaller versions that grow to a maximum height of 4 to 5 feet. Lilacs do best in full sun, but can work in part shade.
Gardeners may buy multiple varieties of sizes from first-year cuttings to well established plants already 3-feet tall. Prices typically range from $10 to $15 for lilacs.
With lilacs gardeners should remember if they plan to prune the shrub they need to be quick about it. An expert at Dan's Sod and Moonlite Nursery, north of Brainerd, said the shrubs set their buds for the following year as soon as they are done blooming in the spring.
He said if gardeners wait a month and prune the shrubs they are actually pruning off all the buds for the following year. Trimming off the spent lilac blossoms will not help create more blossoms the next year and leaving them on will not mean a reduced amount.
The sweet fragrance of honeysuckle also arrives typically in late spring and early summer, providing about a month of fragrant blossoms. Honeysuckle grows well in the region and can cost about $13.
At Dan's Sod and Moonlite Nursery an arnold red honeysuckle is one that will grow in partial shade. The honeysuckle typically grows to 6 to 8 feet in height.
Flowering ornamental crab trees are a popular seller in the lakes area and have a history of organized plantings for beautification within the city of Brainerd.
Lachelt said flowering crabs are all over the map this year in terms of blooming after the hard winter. While many are past prime, others are just getting started. But planters should be aware that flowering crabs crave sunshine.
Those with shaded yards may want to try another ornamental tree that will become scarlet in the fall. The amur maple, also called the ginnala maple, has a variety that grows to be about 15 to 20 feet tall with slender, spreading branches. The variety is hardy for the region, typically zone 3 or sometimes zone 4 in this area, and can take either sun or part shade.
Dan's Sod and Moonlite Nursery reports the amur maple, which includes a shorter emerald elf variety that is 5 feet tall, may be ignored in the spring but is a hot seller in the fall once its red color comes out.
Other striking flowering shrubs that thrive in partial shade are rhododendrum and azaleas. The blooms are showy and colorful, but are relatively short lived. Both shrubs can be a little more touchy to keep in the central Minnesota climate.
But Lachelt said they can last here with a few extra precautions in preparation for winter and with protection of ensuring a healthy plant as they like acidic soil.
Best planting practices include placing the shrubs closer to the home for better protection during the winter and covering the shrub.
Tree options vary from nursery to nursery. But a rule of thumb is that larger, more established trees cost more. Trees already 6 feet in height can be $50. Ornamentals and shade trees may start at $30. A substantial tree with a 4-inch trunk is likely to be several hundred dollars.
In an article about gardening scents, Garden Gate Magazine reported other options to add spice to landscaping and gardens. Items considered typically hardy for the lakes area include German flag or orris root, with a scent of oranges or lemon meringue pie. Other sweet scents include dames rocket, lilies, lilac, wisteria, goldflame honeysuckle, summer sweet, spring-blooming daphne and Korean spice viburnum.
For gardeners who want the scents without the shrubbery, annuals -- such as alyssum -- may be used as border plants and provide sweet scents all summer.
Or for those who prefer a garden of returning color without a perfume may want to try a bleeding heart. The mature perennial plant grows to a bushy size over the years and enjoys the shade with blooms lasting from spring to early summer. It provides extravagant color each spring without the scent. The "hearts" may be rosy red or pink and white or all white.
Landscape business and nursery options are located throughout the lakes area. But regardless of where a gardener seeks a quality product, the sentiment is the same.
When spring comes to area gardens it is not only about what the eye sees, especially when the first wave of spring arrives with a warm breeze.
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