Spring Colors for the Garden
Paul James shares a list of some of his favorite spring-blooming plants.
Columbines (Aquilegia) are perennials that require full sun or partial shade and prefer fast-draining soil. They are the state flower of Colorado and perform well in cold climates. They grow easily from seed, and established plants may be divided to increase your stock.
The blooms of bleeding heart (Dicentra), a perennial, are shaped like tiny hearts with a tear falling from the point of the heart. They require partial shade in hot climates, regular water during the growing season and a fast-draining soil.
Shrubs suitable for spring planting include the well-known forsythia and azaleas, both of which can make an otherwise bland landscape come alive with a dazzling display of flowers. Azaleas grow best where they receive afternoon shade and prosper in well-mulched acidic soil. Azaleas should be fertilized just before they bloom.
The genus viburnum includes a vast range of shrubs (150 species or more) with attractive blooms, foliage and fruit. In hot climates some viburnums require afternoon shade to prevent the leaf tips from burning. In the North most can be grown in full sun.
Spirea requires very little care and maintenance. Various species produce white, pink, yellow or purple blooms.
The old-fashioned fragrant lilac is a real beauty that has been popular and steadily improved upon for decades. Today more than 500 varieties are available in the United States in a range of colors including white, pink, red, lilac and blue. Dazzling white flowers are also produced by fothergilla, a deciduous shrub related to witch hazel.
Among spring-blooming trees, a favorite is the dogwood . Dogwoods prefer afternoon shade even in the North, although well-established trees may survive full sun without too much tip burn. In the United States some of the most widely planted spring bloomers are redbud and crabapple trees. Redbuds produce pink, purplish-red or white flowers and can reach a height of about 30'. Crabapples are popular because of their beautiful flowers and fruit, and many of today's varieties require very little special attention or spraying to prevent disease.
Tip: To get the most "bang for the buck," choose the flower variety you want and then buy the biggest of that type of bulb you can afford. If you're buying tulips, look for the largest bulbs that also have a good papery coating, and no black spots.