Early Bloomers for a Spring Garden

Early Bloomers for a Spring Garden

In the springtime, I would rather be in my gardens more than almost anywhere else.
The days are cooler, less humidity, and I am moved to magical wonder every year by plants that push and sometimes burst through the earth with such determination. I have had Swallowtail butterflies for weeks now, and the Hummers are back. The bluebirds that are such a rarity in these woods have stayed and are raising babies. I listened to the farmers in the hardware store today say that the hay pastures this year are greener and more lush than they have been in years. My perennials are ahead of schedule, and I already have roses ready to bloom. Oriental lilies are two feet high and it looks like the display in my large deck pots will be spectacular. I live in the woods, so the little bit of sunnier areas around my home is where I have created what I call pocket gardens. Each has special light requirements. I began with foundation plantings, bringing in good soil, as the dirt here was not conducive to growing much of anything. Over the first few years I enriched the soil, adding a new pocket garden every year or so as I went along. I use perennials as much as possible, but I have to say, early every spring I get a disease…….I call it the urge fever. I go to the hardware store, determined not to get anything more than the caulk or nails that I went for. Then I know the disease has kicked in……the mere sight of plants causes a funny thing to happen in my brain. Compulsion takes over, the fever makes me delirious, and I have to get some plants. I am pretty much a fly by the seat of my pants gardener now. I have the seeds for design and inspiration for a new garden already in my head, so I pretty much can now go and pick out what I know I want to add in each garden. A lot of knowing comes from perusing the seed and plant catalogues that come all winter long. That is where the virus comes from……opening the seed catalogues and it flings into your face and it is all but over. Oh well, I happily deal with it. Here are a few photos of what is already happening here the beginning of May. I have already minimally pruned back the crepe myrtles, cleaned up the liriope, pruned the hydrangeas, placed all the plant supports except one area, and at this growth rate I had better get busy. I am doing a homemade experiment for this area of daisies that grew last year to almost 5 feet! Tomorrow I will share how I tamed a slight hillside where, after driving rains, water tended to pool a bit, how I structured it, and what it looks like today. I will also share what grows there well and why.



This was what my back woods looked like just a bit over five weeks ago on March 24th when we got a total of about 6 inches of snow. View from Back deck.

A very small patch of wildflowers in the side yard. These were volunteers and I left them, and they re-bloom early every spring I have sowed some additional seeds like poppy for next spring. After they bloom, I mow them. In the background you can see the clumps of Rudbeckia coming along.

I have always enjoyed moving about the gardens with a camera, and taking photos of certain flowers up close. When I go back and look at these photos, I can again re-appreciate how amazing their form and colors are. Here are a few.


Iris in the garden. They so remind me of orchids.


These Columbine were gifts from Dr. G. They continue to do well. Columbines are native to Colorado, but can grow almost anywhere with proper planting and care. Their needs are rich, moist, but well drained soil, a woodland setting is best, otherwise sun in the morning is ok, but dappled shade is best. I have found in the south that as summer moves along, they definitely need a dappled shade location all the time. Plant them one foot apart as they will spread quickly. Deadhead them for longer blooming time. They attract bees and hummingbirds. If grown from seed, they will not bloom until the second year. Do not plant too many varieties too close together as they easily cross- pollinate and they will start to all look the same. They only live 3-5 years, and although you may have to replant, some plants are worth the trouble, and these are one.

Jacobs Ladder, Polemonium “Touch of Class”. JL (zones 3-9) is a hardy perennial. Easy to grow in shade, semi shade, it grows anywhere from 12-24 high and wide. You can deadhead if you want re-blooms. This one is in a large container on my deck, and has returned year after year. With delicate blue flowers, it will easily reseed without becoming invasive. It is a lovely companion plant to hosts.

I have this small pottery bowl planted in a succulent. It sits on my covered entryway planter, and I leave it out all year, watering it occasionally, even in winter. I am doing a lot of reading on succulents and am fascinated by them.

Autumn Sedum, variegated leaves. One of the easiest plants to grow in the garden, very hardy and disease resistant, they will grow in zones 3-9.. They are many varieties, from lower ground cover to taller. They require little care once established, are drought resistant, and the deer and rabbits leave them alone!!!! Any soil type will do, as long as it is well drained. They prefer full sun, but many varieties will grow in part shade. They flower in late summer into late fall, and provide color when the rest of the garden has faded. Their fleshy leaves provide interest until the flowers appear. I grow them in both the ground and in containers. The flowers come in a variety of colors as well. Stems will root easily for additional plants. Terrific plant for kids to grown.

One of the many, many hostas I have in just about every area of the gardens. I really love them, for their ease of growth, the huge variety available, and their ability to add form and texture to the garden. They make terrific companion plants for a host of other flowers and shrubs, or planted in mass by themselves. The bad news? Deer love them. Last year the deer came almost to the front door to graze the hostas in pots in the front entrance area. This year I will have to use deer repellant. When I had all my Newfs, the Deer never came anywhere close to the gardens. Oh, just one of many ways I miss my Newfs!

Japanese Maple. The groundcover is Creeping Jenny. The two stumps I will again fill with flowers. Some folks think of creeping jenny as a weed. It has an unbelievable roots system, and takes aggressive measures to keep it under control. As a ground cover in certain situations it is incredible. I will need to work here this week to keep it from smothering other plants, and decide whether to get rid of it completely or not. I do like it however. Mine came in with a couple of other plants, and quickly established itself.


When I came outside last summer to do my early morning watering, I was stunned to see that the several large pots of hostas had been eaten to the ground by those sneaky deer. They would always leave one or two leaves however, which made it look worse!

The chives have been blooming for a couple of weeks now, and I have used them already in my cooking. I grow them in containers. To prevent them from overseeding, when the flowers start to dry and go to seed, I deadhead them.

I planted a few begonias amid the daylilies and purple salvia.

This is one of my earliest bloomers……Geum Coccineum, or Cooky Avens, an easy peasy perennial (zone 5a – 7b). I have them in containers and dead head them for repeat blooming until early summer. They grow in clumps, 6-12 inches tall in almost any soil, and prefer full sun. They are attractive to Hummingbirds and butterflies. Every morning for a couple of weeks I see swallowtail butterflies on them.

Periwinkele, vinca major and minor, is a woodland plant/groundcover, which is used in herbal medicine. It makes a wonderful ground cover, rooting easy. It is also lovely in hanging baskets. The one above has a variegated leaf, but the dark green leafed one is most common. These are growing below a pot in the gravel of my driveway. I prune it, and often pull up several to transplant into other containers or into the woods.


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