Trees and shrubs showing their blooms

Rob Zimmer

The beautiful flowering shrubs of mid- to late spring are beginning to showcase their spectacular display. This is the time of year to enjoy their beauty, as blossoming trees and shrubs fill the yards and gardens with colorful blooms and, in many cases, a rich, sweet fragrance.

There are many varieties of flowering trees and shrubs for May and June. From flowering crabapple to elderberry and hawthorne, there are many great spring blossoming woody plants to choose from.

One of my favorites, for many reasons, are the many varieties of flowering crabapple. Not only do they provide an explosive bloom of color in mid-May to early June, but the fruits that they provide are an incredible source of food for migrating and overwintering birds in fall, winter — even in early spring.

Each year, more and more varieties of flowering crabapples are introduced. There are those that are in tree form. There are also shrub form and dwarf flowering crabapples. Flowering crabapples come in many shades of pink, as well as in pure white, cream and lavender colors.

This time of year, flowering crabapples put on a spectacular show, with trees producing masses of gorgeous pale blossoms that are a rich source of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, as well as songbirds that eat the petals, not to mention the insects that are attracted to the showy blooms.

While hybrid fruit trees such as cherries, plums, apples and pears are also in full bloom right now, even our native cherries, plums and others put on a spectacular display in our woodlands. Native black cherry, as well as chokecherry, serviceberry, pin cherry and others are all excellent landscape plants, as well as native shrubs that provide a wide range of benefits for wildlife.

Black cherry is known to be a host plant for a wide number of our favorite forest butterflies such as tiger swallowtail, viceroy, cecropia moth, white admiral, red spotted purple and more.

Hawthorne and hackberry are two other amazing native trees that are filled with blossoms from May into June. Both of these are excellent species for attracting birds and butterflies to the garden.

Many of our viburnums, both native species and garden hybrids, are beginning to bloom. The popular “snowball“ viburnum, resembling a hydrangea, is one of the finest. Highbush cranberry, technically a viburnum, is another excellent choice.

It wouldn’t be spring without the spectacular show of the classic lilacs. There are lilacs available in many colors, such as white, yellow, lavender, near blue and deep wine. Many of these are what are known as French lilacs — the old-fashioned, large-flowered variety that produce massive spires of blooms.

Many gardeners are becoming familiar with the smaller, re-blooming, dwarf lilacs that bloom later, longer and often re-bloom in September or October. Miss Kim is one of the most common dwarf varieties, but many more have been introduced, including the whole Bloomerang series. Check them out if you’re looking for a shorter lilac that may only reach 3 to 4 feet in height.

Decorative and native elderberries are also beginning to bloom now in late May and June. Elderberries produce large clusters of blooms, lace-like in appearance. There are many varieties of elderberries specifically bred for gardens. Ornamental elderberries are available with black foliage and pink flowers, lime green with white flowers, as well as variegated foliage with white flowers. There are elderberries that are bred to be narrow and columnar in shape, such as Black Tower and Golden Tower.

Take a trip to your local nursery or garden center, enjoy browsing the selection of spring flowering trees and consider adding a few to your yard and garden.

Rob Zimmer is a nature and garden author, public speaker and radio show host on WHBY. Readers can find him on Facebook at