Bloom Highlights

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Sources for "What's in Bloom: Bloom Highlights" listings include the Chicago Botanic Garden's staff and database, as well as the publications and records of other botanic gardens, institutions, and the scientific community.

Age of Gold Tree Peony

This tree peony produces masses of showy red and gold flowers in May, virtually covering the entire surface of the plant. Tree peonies are not really trees but woody shrubs that can reach up to 6 feet. They thrive in full sun to partial shade and moderate moisture conditions. Free of most insect and diseases, it flowers best in full-sun conditions.

Colorado Columbine

Large blue-and-white flowers open above the fern-like foliage in spring on this Colorado native. It is a short-lived perennial in nature and in cultivation, so gardeners should allow the seeds to mature and disperse to ensure future generations. Plant this perennial in full sun, and moderately moist and fertile soils. This species is prone to diseases in hot and humid summers.

Common Shooting Star

Dodecatheon meadia is a wildflower native to the eastern United States that grows in environments ranging from damp grassland prairies to high-altitude mountain meadows. This member of the primrose family (Primulaceae) has several different common names, including shooting star, American cowslip, and pride of Ohio. The flower has five petals that curve upward, and a cluster of yellow stamens that come to a point.

This unique flower shape gives the appearance of a shooting star falling toward the earth. In Greek, the genus name Dodecatheon means "the twelve gods," a compliment to the grandeur of the Pantheon.

Crabapple

The white flowers of LOLLIPOP® crabapple are followed by yellow fruit. This is a dwarf cultivar of symmetrical habit suitable for sites where space is limited.

Crabapples are small flowering trees that provide a showy display in the spring landscape for 1 to 2 weeks. In addition to the eye-catching buds and flowers, their foliage, habit, and fruit make them attractive plants almost year-round. They are actively hybridized for flower color, leaf color, fruit size/color, shape and, most importantly, disease resistance. Crabapple fruits are usually not eaten by humans but are beloved by birds. Most crabapples benefit from modest amounts of pruning to eliminate water sprouts and improve airflow.

Great Forget-me-not

Easily identified by its heart-shaped evergreen leaves, Brunnera macrophylla grows to between 12 and 18 inches in height. Plant great forget-me-not under trees in a woodland garden or at the woodland edge. Its flowers, which are quite numerous, bloom in the spring with a breathtaking true blue petals surrounding a yellow eye. With flowers as early as April, they often extend into early June.

Guernsey Cream Clematis

Guernsey Cream is a large-flowered perennial vine that climbs 6 to 8 feet tall. From May to June, it produces 5-inch flowers that emerge light yellow with green central bars and gradually fade to creamy white as they mature. Smaller flowers bloom again from August to September. Plant Guernsey Cream in full sun to partial shade, and prune it in late winter or early spring. Remove the dead stems, and cut the remaining shoots back to 6 to 9 inches above a couple of well-developed buds.

Japanese Candelabra Primrose

Whorls of flowers in pastel shades from white to dark pink arise from the center; these almost resemble candelabras. They also provide a prolonged display in spring. This species prefers consistently moist soils and a slightly shaded environment for best flower production.

Korean Azalea

Korean azalea (Rhododendron yedoense var. poukhanense) is a low-growing azalea covered with pink-mauve flowers in spring and orange to red fall color later in the season. Like other plants native to Korea, this species is winter hardy in many parts of the Upper Midwest, including the Chicago region. The cultivar is a hybrid of the straight species (yedoense) and the naturally occurring regional variant (var. poukhanense).

Mist Maiden Rhododendron

The dark pink buds of Rhododendron yakushimanum ‘Mist Maiden’ open to apple blossom pink and gracefully age to white on an evergreen shrub that rarely grows more than 5 feet by 5 feet in size. The large, dark green evergreen leaves feature a tawny indumentum (feels like hairs) on their undersides that provides interest throughout the year. New growth is covered with silvery hairs that form a striking contrast to the older leaves. Fourteen to 17 flowers are produced in each truss (inflorescence) at the tips of the branches. In 2007, this cultivar was awarded the Rhododendron of the Year Award by the Atlantic chapter of the American Rhododendron Society.

Rhododendrons and azaleas produce very small, fine feeder roots very close to the soil surface that are easily damaged during periods of heat and drought. The application of an inch of pine needle or pine bark mulch over the root zone is recommended to moderate the soil temperatures and to prevent excessive drying of the soil. This species also requires an acidic soil pH in order to thrive, achieved by planting on well-drained sands (old Lake Michigan ridge lines are the best example) or completely replacing the high pH heavy clay soils native to this region with a mix of sand and peat moss, top dressed by pine needles.

This species was not discovered and introduced into cultivation until the latter half of the twentieth century from Yakushimanum Island near the southern tip of Japan. Botanists have reclassified it as a subspecies of Rhododendron degronianum. All species of Rhododendron (includes azaleas) have toxic stems, leaves, and flowers. During the colonial period of the British Empire, soldiers stationed in the Himalayas learned this the hard way. Bee keepers always make sure there is a wide variety of flowers for their bees to visit, in addition to Rhododendron plants, to avoid any issues with toxicity.

Pearl Bush
Masses of pure white flowers cover the informally arching branches in May in a dazzling display that can last for weeks. This easy-to-care-for hardy shrub is forgiving of poor soils, which endears it to Chicago area gardeners. Free of insect and diseases, its one drawback is the musty socks smell of the flowers.
Prairifire Crabapple

Prairifire crabapple has crimson buds that open to red-purple flowers. The foliage emerges maroon and matures to dark green. This cultivar is noted for abundant blooms and excellent disease resistance; it is planted extensively at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Crabapples are small flowering trees that provide a showy display in the spring landscape for one to two weeks. In addition to the eye-catching buds and flowers, their foliage, habit, and fruit make them attractive plants almost year-round. They are actively hybridized for flower color, leaf color, fruit size/color, shape, and—most importantly—disease resistance. Crabapple fruits are usually not eaten by humans but are beloved by birds. Most crabapples benefit from modest amounts of pruning to eliminate water sprouts and improve airflow.

White Knight Weigela

From late May into June, 'White Knight' Weigela is covered with clusters of pure-white, fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers. The show may go on for as long as two months and even repeat in the fall. At maturity the branches have a graceful, arcing habit, bending down to touch the ground. It's often used as a hedge, or a specimen.

Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love Weigela, and so do gardeners. For a plant that gives you so much to look at, they're very easy to care for. No particular disease or pest problems. No special soil requirements. No deadheading. Just give them good drainage, reasonable moisture, and plenty of sun. Prune after spring bloom—fall pruning puts next year's flowers at risk.