As spring stirs with gusts and swirls, we have some beautiful colors lighting up the landscape in the Pacific Northwest. PJM rhododendron, one of the early bloomers, is vibrant with the contrasting mahogany colored winter foliage and the bright lavender flowers. I’ve written about this practically perfect plant before, but need to repeat the moving story of its name. PJM is named after Peter J. Mezitt, a Latvian immigrant who settled in Massachusetts. He and his family began producing plants bred for New England’s rugged weather and soil. His son Ed tells about the beginning of PJM: “We had all but forgotten this hybrid…until one Sunday in early May in 1945. We were just developing our nursery in Hopkinton, and we were visiting it that morning, having been tied up during the busy season in Weston most of the week. My heart still skips a beat when I recall the reaction of our entire family when we saw that ribbon of brilliant pink running across the hill. My Dad was so enthusiastic about these little dwarf plants – only six to eight inches tall – in full bloom, that he immediately made the remark that this was the most spectacular rhododendron of our time. We named it ‘P.J.M.’ right on the spot and those of us who knew him can see the vigor, excitement and showmanship he possessed perfectly reflected in this plant.” Now, 67 years later, this compact rhododendron still makes an impact…don’t forget PJM or Peter J. Mezitt!
Next is a bright yellow bloomer, attracting bees and hummingbirds with its overabundance of blossoms. Oregon Grape, or Mahonia aquifolium, is a native evergreen shrub. It’s quite common in the forest, yet often overlooked as an ornamental shrub. But it has everything everyone wants! Glossy green leaves….check! Evergreen….check!. Bright and beautiful flowers….check! Bronze to crimson fall color….check! Provides food and shelter for wildlife….check! Not too big, 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide….check! Grows in the shade….check! Check! Check! This plant has it all. Formerly in the Berberis genus, it now has it’s very own Mahonia genus, since there are over 100 species.
And finally we have one of my new favorites, Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ which I recently gushed about. The flowers are spectacular now and are a great warm-up act for what’s to follow, Mt. Fuji Flowering Cherry, Yoshino, Kwaanzan and all the rest! The spring rainbow is finally here.