The arrival of March, escorting-in nature’s earliest “spring welcomers”, always inspires my enthusiasm for the imminent milder weather. My cornelian cherry (Cornus mas, a Cary Award winner) is already fully enveloped with yellow flowers. The red flower buds on our native red maple (Acer rubrum) expand and open very early, their profusion imparting a misty-pink visual haze above our swampy lowlands by the end of March. Winter aconite, snowdrops, pussy willow, February daphne, spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and even skunk cabbage all typically display their welcome-to-spring features in March, weeks before Okame cherry, the earliest magnolias, redbuds and rhododendron PJM open their blooms in our outdoor gardens.
Just as the blooming of our native witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) proclaimed the end of the growing season year last fall, the hybrid witch-hazels (Hamamelis intermedia) now unfurl their flower petals to herald-in the start of the spring season. Often opening as early as February, the spring-blooming witch-hazels are unsurpassed for decreeing the beginning of spring. And a nice selection of colorfully-flowered witch-hazel cultivars is now becoming available at garden centers, including ‘Arnold Promise’ (lemon-yellow), ‘Pallida’ (sulfur-yellow, a Cary Award winner) and ‘Diane’ (red).
Indoors, March’s local Flower & Garden Shows traditionally draw enthusiastic crowds, anxious to revel in anticipation of the warmth, color and fragrance of the upcoming season. Sadly for us gardeners, recent years have seen a decline in the popularity of these shows, likely due to the cost of setting them up and competition from other sources of entertainment for potential attendees. Paragon Group’s Boston Flower & Garden Show, March 22-26, 2017, the last one to survive in eastern Massachusetts, is still popular for viewing a variety of attractive gardens and always has lots of vendors.
Some other area shows for 2017: Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden’s Annual Spring Flower Show runs March 4-19, South Hadley, MA. The Connecticut Flower and Garden Show was held in February, and the Vermont Show finished in early March, but the Maine Flower Show in Portland runs from March 29-April 2, 2017.
If a road trip appeals, New York State offers a number of 2017 flower-show-type events. The Capitol District Garden & Flower Show is March 24-26 in Troy; Macy’s in New York City’s Herald Square runs their’s from March 26 through April 9; Hicks Nursery opens their annual Spring Flower and Garden Show March 9-26 in Westbury, NY. Of course the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Flower Show is promoted as the world’s largest indoor flower show, so for the avid gardener, it may be worth the trip, March 11-19, 2017.
Most flower shows also include educational lectures and demonstrations, and many are currently tending to focus more on vendors than on the flowers and gardens themselves. There’s also a coming trend for moving the shows later in the spring and outdoors, similar to the way England has organized their various flower and garden shows for decades.
No question, outdoors or inside, the arrival of spring is always a celebration here in New England!
Wayne Mezitt is a 3rd generation nurseryman and a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist, now chairman of Weston Nurseries and owner of “Hort-Sense”, a horticultural advisory business. He currently serves as editor for The Leaflet, an electronically-published monthly member newsletter for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society at The Gardens at Elm Bank in Wellesley MA, and as chair of the Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group (MIPAG).