Allan Armitage on Why the Spring Shoulder Is a Time of Pleasant Anticipation

I first heard the phrase “shoulder time” in a marketing class, referred to at a used car seminar (don’t even ask). It turns out that most products are seasonal, with predictable good times, slow times, and in-between times. Those in-between times in our world are early spring and early fall, the bookends of spring and summer. Both of these seasons are a bit more difficult because people and landscapes are either just waking up from winter or worn out by summer.

However, with the first appearance of the daffodils emerging or the twinkling of a cherry blossom, people do wake up. Even though the winter winds are still blowing, they are looking forward to what the garden brings. My friend, Penny Kristek from Hallettsville, TX, calls this “pleasant anticipation.”

Here are my calls for some excellent shoulder plants. Let’s talk them up and have them ready.

Hellebores: I hope you have your plants ready, because the breeding over the last 10 years on hellebores has caught the world by storm. I went by our local Trader Joe’s the other day, and people were actually tussling for gallon containers of Christmas roses. To heck with amaryllis. In bud and flower, they were gone in 20 minutes. The beauty of the upright flowers bullying through the shiny foliage catches everyone’s attention. Solutions for deer and shade, combined with simple beauty, will keep these plants strong for years.

Helleborus ‘Cinnamon Snow’ (Heuger) Allan column

Helleborus ‘Cinnamon Snow’ (Heuger)

University of Florida Releases Three New Caladium Cultivars

Nasturtium: As “new” as the new hellebores are, old-fashioned nasturtiums are pretty darn pedestrian, hanging around since Grandma threw out a few seeds. Their very short sales window has kept them in the doldrums. But, oh my, some of the newer advances make these anything but boring, and opportunities are changing. Condos, assisted living facilities, and apartments are rising like kudzu; and each will have decks, balconies, and verandas crying out for containers of color. And before you call them pedestrian, you might want to polarize your eyes from the brilliance of new offerings like ‘Baby Orange’. Condos everywhere will be on fire with this hot color.

Nasturtium Baby Orange, Sahin, CAST 2021 Allan

Nasturtium ‘Baby Orange’ (Sahin Nursery)

Erysimum: What in the world is an erysimum? Sounds like something you may not want to catch. Actually, it is, in my mind, a potentially very important sleeper plant for the entire country. Better known as Wall Flower, it too has suffered from falling over dead at the first hint of warm weather. However, as with the others on this list, new breeding has made a big difference in the heat tolerance, especially with the Erysistible series from Syngenta Flowers. A longer sales window and its ability to better handle warm weather should find this long-ignored plant a staple in garden centers and landscapes, even in the Southeast. Plants tolerate cold to at least 0ºF, they simply could never take the heat. Take a closer look, more pleasant anticipation is on the way.

Erysimum Erysistible Bicolor Syngenta Flowers Allan Column

Erysimum Erysistible Series (Syngenta Flowers)

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