Do you make a spring shopping list for your garden? I do, although the way I develop that list has changed over the years. Now, instead of writing, say, “‘Blue Tasmania’ Colorado spruce” on my list, I’ll instead jot down something like “dwarf blue conifer approx. 3×3.” I made this tactical switch after years of being too specific with my needs only to arrive at the garden center and be disappointed when I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted.
“Be flexible,” I remind myself as I pull into the driveway of the local nursery in April.
This is not to say that I don’t have very specific plants that will forever remain on my wish list until they are obtained. ‘Frosted Emerald’ Japanese snowbell (Styrax japonicus ‘Frosted Emerald’, Zones 6–9), for example, has been a staple of my spring shopping list for a few years now.
The story behind how it got onto my list in the first place is likely a scenario all gardeners can relate to. A few years back I was at a specialty nursery looking specifically for some broadleaf evergreens. As I loaded a good-looking mountain laurel into my wagon I spotted two lone variegated snowbells—rather small and gangly—out of the corner of my eye. It was my first encounter with the cultivar ‘Frosted Emerald.’ I was immediately smitten with the tree, although not so much with its hefty price tag.
“Nope, not what I came here to buy,” I told myself and tried to push the image of that stunning rarity out of my head. That didn’t work, of course, and I found myself thinking about the tree a week later. So I returned to the same nursery to find—you guessed it—no ‘Frosted Emerald’ Japanese snowbells. Since then I have been on the lookout for one, and until I find it, that plant will remain on my shopping list.
It’s important to have spring shopping lists. It helps focus our efforts at the garden center when all of us are suffering from a sort of delusional fever of excitement at the start of the season. In most cases it’s a good idea to keep those items on the list general and attainable. But never give up on your dream plants—like Golden Belltower™ ironwood (Parrotia persica ‘Chrishaven1’, Zones 4–8), which I’ve fallen in love with after reading about it in our New Plants for 2023 section. It’s now on my list this year.
You can rest assured that if I see that particular tree at the nursery in the coming weeks—regardless of how gangly it looks or how much it costs—I’ll be putting it into my cart. With no regrets. Until the credit card bill arrives.
—Danielle Sherry, executive editor