By Walt Harrison
Summer is fast approaching but I’m not ready to let spring go just yet.
I’m thinking about how spring hit with a bang in Atlanta this year. Warm weather arrived early and stayed. Flowering shrubs and trees, forsythia, azaleas, cherries, redbuds and dogwoods, to name a few, seemed to bloom all at once creating a riot of color around the city.
There was one bloomer in particular this year that really caught my eye and I’m sure you noticed it as well. Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spirea reevesiana) was the graceful arching shrub with pure white flowers covering the entire plant. It was the star of the show and I saw a great planting at Oakland Cemetery along with several other spots all around town. You should consider this plant for your garden.
Now is still a good time to plant and you will be able to find Bridal Wreath Spirea at your local garden center. It is usually offered in a 3-gallon container (a good size) and is very easy to plant and grow. It will reach a height of four to six feet and is slightly wider than tall and therefore weeps so needs a bit of room. The plant will take full sun all day but will tolerate light shade.
As the weather grows warmer, you will need to make sure you provide this plant with sufficient and even water for the plant to survive the summer. This would also be true of anything planted in the last few months.
I find that watering instructions are often confusing. If one does not water enough, the plant dies. Water too much, the plant dies. What to do? Maybe a little background first. All newly planted flowers, shrubs and trees need supplemental water – that is, water not provided by rainfall – during the spring and summer months. After two years, a plant properly installed with good soil preparation needs very little supplemental watering.
A good rule of thumb is that a thorough soaking twice a week should be sufficient, consistency being extremely important. Do not let the plant dry out and observe it closely from time to time. If it looks happy and healthy and the foliage is standing up, you are watering just right. If the leaves are dropping, check the soil immediately surrounding the plant. If it is dry, water more; if it is wet, you may be watering too much. The systems are the same. I honestly believe that many more plants are killed in Atlanta by too much water than not enough. It’s the usual “too much of a good thing” syndrome.
Also, our clay soil retains water and does not drain well. If you mulch your plants with straw, bark or some other mulching material, you will find that watering will not need to be as frequent.
Be sure to check the watering restrictions in your area and abide by them. The city does fine violators and I have a feeling that permanent restrictions are on the way for Atlanta someday. Until then, keep on gardening, practicing smart watering habits and plant that Spirea today. Next spring you’ll be glad you did.
Walt Harrison is the owner of Habersham Gardens Landscape Services & Intown Garden Center, 2067 Manchester St. For more, visit