by David Salman

Pawnee Buttes® Sand Cherry
Pawnee Buttes® Sand Cherry

Winter in northern New Mexico can hang around way too long. Like spring blooming bulbs and other early season perennials, these two favorite flowering shrubs assure me spring is really coming and warmth is on the way.

Crandall’s Current (Ribes odoratum 'Crandall') blooms with a profusion of showy spring flowers. The fragrance of those bright yellow blossoms is heavenly and perfumes a wide area around itself. The honeybees and our native bees, hungry from winter, are constantly buzzing this native shrub for its plentiful nectar. A selection of the Fragrant Current, 'Crandall' was chosen to be grown for its large, tasty fruit; truly a versatile and valued low care shrub for our landscapes.

Ribes odoratum Crandall
Crandall's Clove Scented Currant
Ribes odoratum Crandall
Crandall's Clove Scented Currant

My other early season favorite comes from the high plains of northeastern Colorado. ‘Pawnee Buttes’ Sand Cherry (Prunus besseyii 'Pawnee Buttes') was found growing in the area of Pawnee Buttes, part of the Pawnee National Grasslands. These dramatic bluffs jut up in the midst of the vast short grass prairie that covers this wide open piece of the planet. The area is arid and has brutal weather with Arctic winters and scorching summers. I love the grace of this selection with its horizontal, ground covering branches. In the spring the stems of 'Pawnee Buttes' are completely covered with fragrant, bright white cherry-like flowers. Of course the native and honey bees provide a constant soft buzz as they pollinate this special shrub. Come fall, the glossy dark green leaves turn beautiful shades of amber and yellow.

Prunus besseyii Pawnee Buttes
Pawnee Buttes® Sand Cherry
Prunus besseyii Pawnee Buttes
Pawnee Buttes® Sand Cherry

'Crandall' current is a wonderful choice for most of the US. 'Pawnee Buttes' sand cherry is best in the western half of the country where conditions are more arid. I recommend tucking 'Pawnee Buttes' up around the base of other waterwise native shrubs like Fernbush (Chamaebatiera millifolium) and Big Sage (Artemisia tridentata) to form a low skirt of leaves and branches. It’s also a great groundcover for slopes. ‘Crandall’ is versatile and can be used along fences, at the back of the perennial border or up against the house (preferably near a window) where its fragrance can be enjoyed.

  1. White Chamaebatiaria millefolium, Chamaebatiaria millefolium, Fernbush

    Chamaebatiaria millefolium (also known as Desert Sweet or Fernbush) is a beautiful native shrub that brightens the garden in mid-summer with big clusters of bright white flowers. It ...

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    Fernbush (Chamaebatiaria) Fernbush Chamaebatiaria millefolium
    Sale Price I Save 15%
    $12.99 Sale $11.04
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Chamaebatiaria millefolium (also known as Desert Sweet or Fernbush) is a beautiful native shrub that brightens the garden in mid-summer with big clusters of bright white flowers. It also has attractive dried seed heads and olive-green foliage. Drought resistant perennial plant (xeric).
  2. Blue Caryopteris clandonensis Dark Knight, Caryopteris clandonensis Dark Knight, Blue Mist Spirea Dark Knight

    Dark Knight Blue Mist spirea (Caryopteris clandonensis) blooms with a profusion of dark blue flowers in late summer when few other shrubs are flowering. Its modest size makes it very...

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    Dark Knight Caryopteris Dark Knight Blue Mist Spirea, Bluebeard Caryopteris clandonensis Dark Knight
    Sale Price I Save 15%
    $11.99 Sale $10.19
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Dark Knight Blue Mist spirea (Caryopteris clandonensis) blooms with a profusion of dark blue flowers in late summer when few other shrubs are flowering. Its modest size makes it very useful in smaller yards. A fantastic nectar source for bees and butterflies. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
  3. White Prunus besseyi ‘PS’ (Pawnee Buttes), Prunus besseyi ‘P0S’, Pawnee Buttesand Sand Cherry

    An outstanding selection of our western native sand cherry, Pawnee Buttes® is a low growing, groundcover shrub with a profusion of fragrant white flowers in early spring and show...

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    Pawnee Buttes® Sand Cherry (Prunus) Pawnee Buttes® Sand Cherry Prunus besseyi P011S
    As low as $11.99 Sale $10.19
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    An outstanding selection of our western native sand cherry, Pawnee Buttes® is a low growing, groundcover shrub with a profusion of fragrant white flowers in early spring and showy mahogany-red foliage in the fall. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant. Prunus besseyi P011S is a 2000 Plant Select® introduction. 12-18" tall x 4-6' wide.
  4. Blue Caryopteris clandonensis First Choice, Caryopteris clandonensis First Choice, Blue Mist Spirea First Choice

    First Choice is a newer selection with particularly deep blue flowers and a more compact mature size than other Blue Mist spirea. Blooming late summer it is an invaluable nectar sour...

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    First Choice Caryopteris First Choice Blue Mist Spirea, Bluebeard Caryopteris clandonensis First Choice
    $12.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    First Choice is a newer selection with particularly deep blue flowers and a more compact mature size than other Blue Mist spirea. Blooming late summer it is an invaluable nectar source for bees and butterflies. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).