GIMME SHELTER- Has spring sprung? Local blooms tell the tale

Debra Dolmetsch
Ivy Corner Garden Center

Q: Ah, spring is finally in the air. What early blooms can we look for in the area?

A: Now that our recent cold spell has passed, it's natural to want to see signs of spring. Crocus, daffodils, narcissus, tulips, hyacinth, and snow drops are considered by many to be the first spring flowers, blooming anywhere from early March to the end of April. However, you may have noticed that many minor bulbs bloom even earlier, such as glory-of-snow with their vivid blue and white centers; yellow winter aconite, which can bloom as early as January; netted iris, a lightly scented violet-purple bulb that blooms in early March; and spring snowflake, which has drooping, bell-shaped white flowers and can bloom as early as February.

Remember, these bulbs must be planted in the fall for early spring blooms, and daffodils, crocus, and snow drops are deer resistant, whereas deer will eat up tulips and hyacinth. We suggest you plant the latter closer to the house, which is also a great idea because they smell so good. All these bulbs love locations with full sun, and it helps to work the soil with fertilizer like bone-meal or bulb-tone.

Of course, early bulb bloomers are short-lived. On the other hand, pansies are also cool season plants, blooming from early March and lasting until the hot weather, giving you more bang for the buck. Pansies can also take sharp temperature swings; in fact, they can freeze solid and come back. Perennials like creeping phlox, lenten rose, evergreen camellia and viburnum are also starting to bloom now, as are forsythia and winter jasmine. Pieris, a fragrant evergreen plant with small white bell-shaped bulbs, is also an early bloomer, and a great replacement for azaleas. Also look for amelanchier, which have white blooms and produce berries that taste like blueberries. But you better be quick– the birds love them! 

Of course, trees signal the coming of spring like clockwork, with purple leaf plum showing up first, then star magnolias, Bradford pears, dogwoods, redbuds, ornamental cherry, and lavender saucer magnolias. Unfortunately, camellia and star magnolias can be damaged by late season frost, but they're well worth the risk of planting because their blooms are so magnificent.

Debra Dolmetsch