In Praise of the Pearl Bush and Other Spring Flowering Shrubs










I looked out my window the other day and noticed a blazing white fountain spilling out of the line of trees next to my house. The pearl bush had burst into bloom, apparently overnight. Most of the year pearl bush (Exochorda racemosa) is an innocuous arching shrub with small green leaves. In winter it is a mounding thicket of branches.  But for a few weeks in spring it is covered with pure white blooms that cannot be missed. It reminds me that soon the fothergilla will be showing its starry white flowers. The bridal wreath spiraea is already putting on a show and many of the pink flowering varieties are pushing out new leaves in brilliant shades of red and orange that are showier than the pink flowers soon to come. In a short while the weigelas will be bursting out with cheery pink bell shaped flowers. Of course the forsythia has been brazenly screaming yellow at us for a while. The cherry trees are flowering one after the other- Snow fountain in full bloom, Okame, Yoshino and Kwanzan still to come. The flowering apricot is a cheering memory now of flowers in the middle of winter. And of course the peonies are pushing their red fronds taller each day, soon to give us their voluptuous fragrant flowers.

Many of the spring flowers are ephemeral, flowering spectacularly for only a few weeks. But to me this is part of their charm. I look forward to their show every year and am disheartened when a late frost dims their bloom. They are like spring itself here, fleeting but much more predictable. They define the short season one after the other until we are suddenly in the midst of the long hot days of summer.

I make sure to look at my pearl bush once or twice a day because I know that it will be gone soon, as will this yet to be realized spring. Ah well. The summer flowers have their charms too.