“Is there any garden that doesn’t cast a backward glance, gather meaning to itself by allusion to the places in our past.” — Michael Pollan

January is a time for a glance back. Colder weather, the end of holiday busyness and a lull in home and work activities offer time for reflection. It can be useful both for closing down the previous year and planning toward the year ahead.

While holiday lists are over, for gardeners the plant lists are just beginning. Sustainability is a primary goal for most gardeners—using plants that endure. A drive through the countryside in different seasons of the year, focusing on long-abandoned homesteads or church or cemetery landscapes, can offer a window into plants for the long haul.

What are the plants you remember from your past? And what plants are most likely to survive even after the buildings around them crumble to the ground? This column focuses on spring bulbs and shrubs that can survive with neglect. Add your own memories to this mix and think about some old-fashioned plants to “plant forward.”

Spring Bulbs

February to March: Snowdrops (Galanthus),

April: Crocus, Spring snowflake (Leucojum), April

Daffodil, Hyacinth, Grape hyacinth, Squill

April to May: Tulip

Spring-flowering shrubs

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March to April: Forsythia

April to May: Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis), Kerria, Lilac

April to June: Weigela

May to June: Spirea

June: Mockorange (Philadelphus); Rose (Harison’s Yellow)-a fragrant cultivar from the early 19th century with abundant, semi-double yellow flowers in June; Spirea

June to September: Hydrangea

Bob Henrickson and Karma Larsen are with Nebraska Statewide Arboretum,


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