Spring Flowering Shrubs

Viburnum 'Summer Snowflake'
Viburnum ‘Summer Snowflake’

Today it feels like Spring has really set in on Nantucket!  ‘Kwanzan’ cherry trees are in full bloom accross the island, giving everyone the feeling that Summer is also right around the corner!  It’s exciting to see perennials and annuals filling up the courtyard, but if your landscape still needs a few more “Bones” it is prime time for planting Spring flowering shrubs.
Early Spring shrubs like Hamamelis vernalis (Witch hazel), Pieris japonica & floribunda (Andromeda), Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape), Spiraea ‘Ogon’ and Forsythia are now giving way to mid spring and early summer bloomers.  The next wave of color will come from Kerria japonica, Prunus maritima (Beach Plum), Azaleas, Rhododendrons and Viburnums like V. x carlcephalum and V. carlesii .
The final days of spring are ushered out with Lilacs.  Syringa vulgaris, the common lilac has stunning flowers with unmatched fragrance.  But don’t discount the smaller-flowered varieties.  Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’ is an excellent landscape plant for Nantucket, resistant to powdery mildew and tolerant of more extreme conditions than others.

Perennial Pruning

Kalimeris and Salvia
Kalimeris and Salvia

Most gardeners know the benefits that pruning provides trees and shrubs.  Less of us know how useful different pruning techniques can be for perennial plants.

Exceedingly tall or leggy perennials are one of the first groups of plants I think of that benefit from a quick shearing in early summer.  Eupatorium purpureum (Joe Pye Weed), for example, will grow upwards of 9′ tall, making it appear out of scale with smaller plants like Rudbeckia, Sedum, or Salvia. Cut it back by 1/3 in mid to late June to reduce the flowering height and create much fuller plants.

Another benefit of pruning perennials is delayed flowering.  Leucanthemum maximum ‘Becky’ (Shasta Daisy) is a popular plant on the island.  Shearing the plants at the front of a mass planting in late spring creates a tiered effect with taller plants flowering first at the back and shorter plants flowering later in the front.

Pruning can also be used to avoid some common issues with mounding plants.  These plants can fall open in the center as flowering peaks.  Nipponanthemum nipponicum (Montauk Daisy) is notorious for this problem.  Shear or pinch it a few times before mid-summer and you will be rewarded with a plant that holds its flowers in a compact mound.

A complete list of perennials that can be pruned in a variety of ways is available in Tracy DiSabato Aust’s book The Well Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques from Timber Press.  Tracy’s book is available at island book stores. But by all means, experiment!  If you remember a plant that tends to be leggy in your garden, it won’t hurt to pinch back a few stems and see what happens!  If you would like to enjoy your flowers a few weeks longer than last year, try shearing one plant early on to see how it reacts.

Happy Gardening!

Ornamental Grasses

Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln' flowers
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ flowers

What would a Nantucket garden be without one ornamental grass or other?  From Pennisetum ‘Little Bunny’, to Miscanthus sin. ‘Gracillimus’, there is a grass for nearly everyone and their landscape.  These tough plants are not troubled by pests, diseases, rabbits or deer, and many display showy plumes or vibrant foliage later in the season.

During the first few years after planting, the only maintenance most grasses need is a hair-cut in spring to take off the previous season’s growth.  Over a period of years, the larger grasses can decline, and may need division.  Spring is the best time to divide warm season grasses like Miscanthus, taking advantage of the increased root growth that takes place as the plants break dormancy.  Spring is also the best time to install new plantings of these grasses.   We have a varied selection of ornamental and native grasses already at the nursery, and will continue to bring in more as the season progresses.

Spring Vegetables

Lettuce 'Red Salad Bowl'
Lettuce ‘Red Salad Bowl’

There are many vegetables that can be grown and harvested this time of year.  Leafy greens like Spinach and Lettuce are both beautiful and delicious.  Cole crops like Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussels sprouts and Chard are extremely satisfying to grow, as they mature quickly


Spring Flowering Trees!

The nursery is filled with color as trees burst into flower. There is a wide variety to chose from, but the hues of pink and white predominate this time of year. Cherries, Crabapples, Ornamental Pears and Magnolias are in stock and ready for planting. Should you require a large tree for a special spot now is the time to shop!
Prunus x 'Snofozam' - Snofozam Weeping Cherry
Prunus x ‘Snofozam’ – Snofozam Weeping Cherry
Prunus 'Okame' Clump Form'
Prunus ‘Okame’ – Okame Clump-Form Cherry
Prunus x yedoensis
Prunus x yedoensis – Yoshino Cherry


Are you looking for a plant to cover a trellis, arbor or pergola?  Do you need something to scramble among your climbing roses or around the bare trunk of a tree?  Surfing Hydrangea Nursery offers one of the best selections of flowering and non-flowering vines on the island.  If you are interested in adding native plants to the landscape, vines can be an easy way to start; Wisteria frutescens is a late-flowering North American species that covers a pergola nicely, without being nearly as rampant as its Asian cousins; Campsis radicans (Trumpet Vine) is also a great choice for showy flowers later in the summer; Parthenocissus quincefolia (Virginia Creeper) is spectacular in the summer trained over a wall or wherever you have space!  Why not give one a try?  The wildlife will thank you!

Berry Patch

HIghbush blueberry flowers
HIghbush blueberry flowers

Can there be anything better than eating a plump berry at it’s peak?   Supermarket fruit can’t compare to ripe berries picked and eaten out of hand.  No wonder more and more people are growing their own!

Most berry bushes require no more care than landscape shrubs.  Apart from annual pruning, there is not much in the way of work to be done to keep them productive.  Just plant them in full sun, and plan on a bountiful harvest this summer!

We have both high and lowbush blueberries in stock and are expecting some 5-6′ Highbush Blueberry ‘Elliot’ next week.  This late variety is a vigorous plant that performs very well in our climate, while producing a heavy crop of berries.   We also have a wide aray of Raspberries, Blackberries, and Gooseberries for you to choose from, that will provide you with the highest quality fruit for years to come.

Pruning Blackberries and Raspberries

Blackberry leaves

In the rose family, the genus Rubus includes cultivated red, golden, purple  and black rapsberries as well as blackberries.  Homeowners and landscapers alike can be confused about pruning these berries.

Consider growing these plants on a wire trellis system to promote good air flow  and facilitate training.

Blackberries grow long arching canes that are often very lengthy and thorny.  The fruit is borne on canes that are more than one year old.   However, the most productive canes are not older than three years.  In March, remove the oldest canes at ground level, in favor of the younger ones.   Cut back any lateral brances to six or eight inches.    Head back canes to 6″ above the top wire.  In summer, tip back new growth to 6″ above the top wire to encourage lateral fruiting branches.

Raspberries produce upright canes that are generally shorter than blackberries.  Most types of raspberries are summer-fruiting.  The fruit is borne on canes that have overwintered from the previous season.  These second-year canes will flower, fruit and then die back to the ground.  In March, remove any dead, damaged or spindly canes at ground level.

Some raspberries are fall-fruiting.  These types produce canes that will flower and fruit at the top part of the cane in the first growing season.  Over the winter they will die back somewhat, but will then flower and fruit on the lower cane portion in summer.  After this second fruiting, the entire cane will die.  The best way to maintain these types is to mow all canes to ground level in March.  This will produce a single crop in the fall.