Yard & Garden Report


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Summer Blizzard

Sweet mockorange is covered with snowy blossoms in June.

'Blizzard' and close-ups of Snow White Sensation™ and 'Aurea' flowers. Photos courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.

Imagine a shrub covered in snow—in summer!

Maybe not snow, but snowy white flowers. I saw it at the International Peace Garden a few weeks ago. It was spectacular! I walked over to give the tall shrubs a closer look. The arching branches were covered with pure white, fragrant flowers.

This is sweet mockorange (Philadelphus), one of the most remarkable shrubs in early summer, yet one of the least remarkable shrubs during the rest of the year.

It’s never ugly, but mockorange doesn’t stand out during much of the year. It has no fall color and its fruits are not showy. It is often used as a backdrop in perennial gardens.

Mockorange grows vigorously and is easy to care for. It tolerates alkaline and salty soils, and it tolerates drought once established. Mockorange rarely suffers from diseases or insect pests.

Among the most popular cultivars is ‘Blizzard’. The six-foot shrub (shown) is blanketed with fragrant, single flowers throughout June. Developed in Alberta, it’s hardy throughout North Dakota.

One of the most exciting introductions is First Editions® Snow White Sensation™. It blooms twice, first in late spring and then again in late summer! That’s a double delight! It grows six feet tall, is hardy to Zone 4, and its foliage is dark green.

‘Aurea’ is best known for its golden foliage and compact habit. The four-foot shrub makes a nice hedge and is hardy to Zone 3/4. 

The arching branches of ‘Minnesota Snowflake’ grow a bit taller, up to eight feet. Its blooms have double petals. The plant is hardy to Zone 4.

One key to caring for mockorange is to trim it when it starts to get leggy. Trim a quarter of the oldest branches down to the ground. Do this for a few more years and the shrub will be full again. Prune after the flowers have faded in July.

Sweet mockorange will enchant you in June and serve as a pleasing backdrop to your garden the rest of the year. Take advantage of newer cultivars that bloom longer, and keep your eyes open for more introductions of this classic garden shrub. 


Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Photos courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc. 

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