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Plants for an

early spring show


We typically look to bulbs to draw us into the garden in early spring. Snowdrops, crocus and chionodoxia are all indicators that the soil is ready to support growth for yet another season. Along with bulbs, there are many trees, shrubs and perennials which bring the garden to life on a grander scale.

In smaller gardens it takes only a few bulbs and early flowering perennials or shrubs to start a season-long display of colour and interest. In the larger garden, however, it takes more planning, more diversity and larger specimens to achieve this goal. Strategically placing larger, earlier flowering plantswill bring all corners of the garden to life sooner.

Although it may be too late to improve upon this year's show, make notes now as to areas which need improvement, select suitable plants and install them this spring. Next year you will be very glad you did.

By far, the biggest early treat in my own garden is the flowering of the Manchu Cherry shrub (Prunus tomentosa). It requires virtually no care and I would forget its presence if it weren't for the magnificent display of blushing pink flowers in early spring. It is placed well away from the house and draws the eye through the rest of the garden.

The garden in front of the cherry is typically late blooming but does contain Spurge (Euphorbia epithymoides), Basket of Gold (Alyssum sp.) and Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea). The bright yellow flowers of the two perennials, combined with the red twigs of the dogwood are pleasing sights and allow time for the rest of the garden to catch up. Also, a mass planting of grape hyacinth surrounding the dogwood is usually in full bloom by the time the cherry petals have dropped.

Flowering fruit trees are excellent additions to the garden and have the added benefit of coming in many different colours. The effect of the flowering fruit trees is extended when the petals fall and coat the ground beneath.

Another outstanding early bloomer for large and small gardens, is the P.J.M. Rhododendron. The quantity and quality of bright violet flowers is almost ridiculous. This, in combination with white tulips, make a generous showing until the later flowering shrubs and perennials get started. Rhododendrons and Magnolias of all types are spectacular specimens for the spring garden. Unlike many shrubs, they also have attractive shapes, so continue to add interest to the garden year round.

In the spring of 1998 we were finally treated to the display that Forsythia is capable of. The mild-winter prevented the marginally hardy flower buds from dying, so instead of a pathetic scattering of light yellow flowers there was an intense and long-lasting display of colour. For the first time I thought they were a worthy component of the garden!

Early flowering plants are often those which are suited to the woodland garden or semi-shade. In their native habitat, they take advantage of the sunlight in early spring and do the majority of their growing before the deciduous trees leaf out. Barrenwort (Epimedium sp.) and Foamflower (Tiarella), are two examples of early flowering and under-utilized ground covers for shady areas. They grow well in mass plantings and with each other. Bleeding Heart (Dicentra sp.) is one of my favourite plants and always stops me in my tracks to take a closer look. Like bulbs, it dies back to ground level in early summer.

Ferns are excellent plant choices for gardens on the shady side of the house. They grow well in masses, have the height needed to block the house foundation and require very little care once established. Top-dressing the fern bed with organic matter in early fall will keep the soil in good shape for the ferns to thrive.

This year, I will be trying new selections of larger and smaller shrubs to stand alone or work in combination with the existing shrubs. My first choice will be Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica) which is a slow growing deciduous evergreen which prefers acid soils and partial shade. It has many attractive features including fragrant white flowers in April and new growth which is a rich bronze before turning to a dark evergreen leaf.

Last fall I planted many new bulbs and bulb combinations in areas which I have since forgotten. I know they were planted there for a reason, and that will become crystal clear once they come up.


Daisy Moore, 1999.



Other spring garden tips:

(click on the tip you want to read)


Designing Gardens

Fertilizing the Garden
Ready for Spring
Starting Seeds Indoors
Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Dormant Spraying
Planning the Vegetable Garden
Planting Early Vegetables
Early Season Care of Perennial Beds
Plants for an Early Spring Show
Cut Flowers for the Home Garden
Growing the Perfect Potato
Lawn Care in Early Spring.....GRUB DAMAGE!
Spring Lawn Care
The Garden in May
Gardening with Native Plants
Sources of Native Plants
Shade Gardening
Planting Gladiolus and Other Summer Flowering Bulbs
Weed Control
Thatch in Lawns
Weeds or Wildflowers
Improving Your Soil
Marvellous Mulch
Selecting and Planting Shrubs
Planting Trees and Shrubs
Window Box Gardening
Growing Tomatoes
Fertilizing the Vegetable Garden



Home  |  Garden designs  |  Naturalized gardening  |  Help with your garden  |  Garden Tips Spring  Summer  Fall  | Contact Daisy


Daisy Moore 2005