Spring Fling

The deliciously fragrant viburnum flower in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The deliciously fragrant viburnum flower (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Spring is the time of year when Mother Nature turns her switch to “ON” and all the dreary browns evaporate into a sea of green. Seemingly overnight, blades of grass sprout up, leaves metamorphose from buds to butterfly wings, even the air is electrified with the sounds and smells that only spring can broadcast. And speaking of scents reminiscent of spring, here a few of my favorite harbingers of fragrance:

American Fringe Tree in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Nothing compares to the delicate tassels of the fringe tree (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Fringe Tree: Each spring is filled with great anticipation for the fragrant clusters of the shredded coconut-like flowers that will soon adorn every branch of my fringe trees.  Sweetly honeysuckle scented, the delicate white tassels remind me of the streamers at the end of my first bicycle’s handle bars as they fluttered in the breeze. American fringe tree, Chionanthus virginicus, is an Eastern U.S. native that is unrivaled in the smaller tree realm with its outstanding display of abundant gossamer clusters of fragrant ivory blossoms. Appearing late May to mid-June, the ethereal blossoms gently dangle from each branch like silken threads, creating the illusion of something light and airy floating on your landscape. Chionanthus is derived from the Greek word meaning snow flower, indeed the flowers are as delicate as snowflakes.  Depending on weather conditions, the flowers may hold for several weeks before slowly sprinkling the ground. The slow growing American fringe tree (may eventually reach 20 feet) is very tolerant of poor soils as long as it gets adequate moisture and full sun in zones 3-9.

Common Lilac is the quintessential New England shrub in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The Common Lilac is the quintessential New England shrub (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Lilac: When the fragrant lavender blooms of heirloom lilacs are opening in abundance, it’s a sure sign of spring and a promise of many wonderful events to come. Nothing compares to the beauty and perfume of the Syringa family, and there are so many sizes and colors to choose from that no one needs to miss the opportunity to have at least one delicious specimen nearby. Planting a lilac is like planting a piece of history, as the oldest living North American trees date back to 1750.  Although lilacs are a quintessential part of the New England landscape, Syringa vulgaris are actually native to Europe and Asia. The lilac is a genus from approximately 25 species in the olive family, and is closely related to the privet family. Common Syringa vulgaris trees can be expected to grow up to 20 feet tall and 30 feet wide at maturity, and are very hardy in zones 2-9. With care and pruning, you can expect your lilac to surpass your lifetime as well.

Common Lilac is the quintessential New England shrub in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Magnolia is the first to bloom in spring (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Magnolia: A most cherished early bloomer, Magnolia stellata was one of the first small trees we planted on our property over twenty years ago.  Sited in close proximity to our house, we could easily view its beauty through all the seasons, as well as enjoy one of early spring’s most enchanting fragrances. Native to Japan, the commonly known star magnolia is a stellar performer in the galaxy of magnolias. Flowering on naked branches, the multi-petaled, whitish-pink 4 inch blossoms blanket the tree in late March or early April, and with warmer temperatures, emit a wonderful fragrance that gently embraces you and invites you for a closer sniff (Note: the blooms are susceptible to frost damage). Magnolia stellata is perfect for the smaller landscape, as it tops out around 15 feet tall and wide, and can be trimmed to keep its shape. Hardy to zones 4-8, it prefers full sun and moist soil, and is easily maintained with an annual pruning of suckering branches.

Intoxicating blossoms of Burkwood viburnum in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The intoxicating blossoms of Burkwood viburnum (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Viburnum: We’ve all experienced some sort of infatuation in our lives, but I’ve got it bad for fragrant viburnums. When standing near their intoxicating blooms, I become distracted and disoriented. Surely mythical sirens could have lured far more sailors to their lair with the scent of viburnums wafting on the ocean breeze than with their melodious songs . . . Between late April to early May, the luscious pale pink clusters are opening and emitting a fragrance quite unlike any other. The scent is soft and fruity, even a little spicy, yet capable of traveling great distances to reach a welcoming recipient.  The two cultivars known for their sweet scent are Viburnum carlesii, Korean spice viburnum, which grows to about six feet tall and wide, and it’s slightly larger cousin Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’, Burkwood viburnum, that tops out at ten feet tall and wide. These incredibly fragrant zone 5-8 shrubs produce berries for our feathered friends in summer and burgundy foliage in fall. Both would prefer moister soil and full sun, but can tolerate dry spells once established.

Although most of these should be not considered foundation plantings because of their potential size (except Korean spice viburnum), they are shrubs that you want to plant as close to a seating area, walkway or window as possible so you won’t miss out on their wonderful scents. Cheers ~


  1. I am trying to locate a white flowering almond, similar to pink shrub.

    • Hi Kathy, The almond tree that blooms with white flowers is called sweet almond or Prunus dulcis. The sweet almond tree grows to a maximum height of only 15 feet and requires a long, hot, dry growing period. They do not grow well in humid or cold climates and have a plant hardiness rating of zone 7 through 9. Since I live in zone 5 New England, I would not be able to recommend any resources in my area. Good luck ~

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