• Sandi Manna

Flowers For An Early Breath Of Spring

Well, I don't know about you, but three major winter storms within the span of 10 days is enough for me. As a matter of fact, when I heard about today's storm, this was the post on my facebook page:

With that in mind, I thought I might turn my thoughts to a more positive direction and do a blog post about early spring flowers. I do admit, I went out in my garden the other day and I could see some Iris as well as some Sedum coming up, so maybe spring isn't as far away as it seems...or we can at least hope.

Early spring flowers give me hope that Old Man Winter will finally release his grip and I can get in the garden again. I do like snow, but not this late in March! Early blooming flowers can bring the color of spring weeks ahead of schedule. There are some early blooming bulbs, perennials and shrubs.

I'll start with bulbs. Most people think of daffodils and tulips when it comes to spring bulbs, but there are actually quite a variety. I have to say crocus is probably my favorite. I remember as a kid the crocus bravely peeking through the snow, and to me that was a sure sign that winter was on it's way out. Crocus are among the earliest blooming bulbs in the spring, but there are a number of other bulbs that bloom early as well and are worth mentioning. These include Snowdrops, Hyacinths, Fritillaria and Crested Iris. Then of course we get more into the common bulbs such as Tulips and Daffodils. No matter which bulb you prefer, they are all a welcome sign of spring!

Not to be outdone, there are several perennials that bloom early as well. One of my most favorite perennials is Hellebore, or Lenten Rose. Lenten Rose blooms in early early spring, right along with the crocus. Lenten Rose often blooms before the Daffodils and tulips, but can be seen still in bloom right alongside those spring bulbs. These perennials offer nodding, cup-shaped flowers in subdued hues of burgundy, pink and white. My personal favorite is the variety 'Love Bug'. I love the foliage. I know, I know, here I go again with with foliage. Most Lenten Rose have nice, green foliage, but the foliage on 'Love Bug' is a blue green with lighter veining. This interesting foliage makes it pretty in the garden long after the blooms have faded. Bleeding Heart, or Dicentra Spetabilis, is another spring favorite of mine. Delicate, deeply lobed foliage is accented by long blooming heart-shaped flowers in red, pink, or even white. Bleeding heart peeks up early, but the foliage can get lanky after blooms have past. I tend to plant this with other perennials around it that come up a bit later and leaf out in a wide "v" or fan shape. Because I cut the bleeding heart back once the foliage gets unsightly, the foliage of the later perennials help to fill the space where the bleeding heart has been cut back. Lungwort, or Pulmonaria is another early spring bloomer. Delicate blue flowers rise on sturdy stems avove foliage that is either speckled or even silver in color. Much like the bleeding heart, the foliage of lungwort can get unsightly later in the season, so be sure to plant other perennials around it so you don't have an empty space if you decide to cut it back. A few more early blooming perennials include: Creeping Phlox, Virginia Bluebells, Bloodroot, Bergenia and Brunnera.

The beauty of early spring flowers doesn't end with bulbs and perennials. There are also several dramatic, early spring blooming shrubs. Perhaps the earliest blooming spring flower is Witch Hazel. Witch Hazel can be seen blooming now, even before the earliest crocus or hellebore blooms. This is probably why they're one of my favorite shrubs. Delicate, small flowers of either yellow or russet profusely cover these shrubs. They can get pretty large, and can even be considered a small tree if not kept pruned. If you don't have the room for that, than an alternative is Spike Winter Hazel. In the same family as Witch Hazel, these open, vase-shaped shrubs have delicate bell-shaped flowers in butter yellow that absolutely cover the shrub in early spring. There are other spring blooming shrubs to be sure. There is Pussy Willow with it's fuzzy, grey catkins. Another of my favorites. Flowering Quince is also beautiful. Cup shaped flowers in orange or red emerge well before the foliage does, and can often be seen blooming at the same time as the daffodils and tulips. Let's of course also mention Forsythia, Magnolia, Spicebush, Spriea, and Lilac. It is worth mentioning that the growers and breeders of plants have really been working to produce plants that are smaller than our grandmother's shrubs. There are now dwarf forsythia, dwarf lilac, and re-blooming lilac. If you have a smaller space, or just don't have room in your garden for a larger shrub, it's definitely worth checking out some of the dwarf versions of these shrubs. They'll add early spring color to your garden, and as we battle yet another winter storm with heavy wet snow (and my power just flickered...nooooooooo!!!) who couldn't use to dream about a little spring color!

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