No other flower tickles your nose quite like Fothergilla gardenii (dwarf fothergilla), a charming little shrub with honey-scented, bottlebrush blooms in early spring. This native North American shrub does well in moist (not boggy) spots and in partial shade, but in sun, it produces more flowers and can be relied upon for a magnificent display of burnished-gold tall foliage. Dwarf fothergilla grows slowly to about 3 feet high and wide. It is small enough to plant in mixed borders among perennials, and will thrive with the same watering and attention they receive. It does not tolerate drought. Hardy in Zones 5–8.
In late spring, Viburnum carlesii (Koreanspice viburnum) is covered with dense clusters of pink buds that open to pure white. Plant it along a path, off a deck or patio, or near the front door — close enough to the house to enjoy the exotically spicy fragrance of its flowers as you come and go. The bloom lasts up to two weeks. Koreanspice viburnum thrives in part shade to full sun, and grows to about 8 feet tall; it tolerates pruning well, and can be grown as a striking hedge. The foliage turns ruddy red in the fall. Hardy in Zones 4–8.
Rhododendron ‘Hino Crimson’ is a small evergreen azalea, but its tiny, shiny leaves can scarcely be seen in spring, when bright red buds cover the shrub and open into a gorgeous profusion of flowers. ‘Hino Crimson’ is one of many Kurume azaleas; these slow-growing hybrids are known for their hardiness, dense branch structure, and attractive small leaves. Other cultivars have white, pink, salmon, fuchsia, or purple flowers. ‘Hino Crimson’ is among the hardiest of the Kurume hybrids. Its foliage turns bronze in winter. In time, Kurume azaleas will grow to 4–6 feet tall; plant them in light shade, in an area protected from winter sun, and mulch to conserve soil moisture. Hardy in Zones 5/6–9.
Malus ‘Indian Magic’ (flowering crab apple) is just one of hundreds of wonderful choices in the astonishingly vast world of crab apples. ‘Indian Magic’ sets itself apart with its red flowers in spring and persistent orange fruit in the fall and winter. Crab apples are small, attractive trees with a generally rounded habit, growing 15–20 feet tall and just about as wide in well-drained soil in full sun. Crab apples are susceptible to a dismaying number of bugs and blights, and it is important to choose resistant varieties. ‘Indian Magic’ gets good reports, as do ‘Adirondack’ (introduced by the U.S. National Arboretum), ‘Callaway’, and ‘Sugar Tyme’. Hardy in Zones 4–7.