In the spring, while trees and shrubs are still showing their pale green new growth, the early border generally consists of colorful bulbs and a few early blooming perennials against a backdrop of green foliage and brown earth. Spring bulbs are perhaps the most important flower in the early spring garden. Spring bulbs, a welcome sight after a long winter, offer the earliest blooms of all garden flowers. Some bulbs will last until the early perennials begin to bloom in May and June.
There are also some early blooming shrubs which can provide the garden with colorful flowers. Forsythia and witchhazel, for example, bloom long before many perennials even begin to emerge from the soil. In fact, in the middle of spring and early summer there are more shrubs and trees in bloom than at any other time of year.
Most early blooming perennials are quite suitable for the shade garden. They're able to take advantage of the sun while it still reaches the ground beneath deciduous trees which have yet to form their leaves. Woodland gardens are often the most colorful landscapes in the spring since many native, shade tolerant flowers bloom early in the season.
A great early blooming perennial for the garden is iris which ranges in color from white to purple and in size from a few inches to 4 feet. Bleeding heart is a short lived yet stunning pink blooming perennial which is at home in both the shade garden the woodland garden. Columbine, an easy to grow perennial, blooms in a variety of colors. Some of the showiest early season flowers include poppy and peony and lupine.
Though there are many early blooming garden plants, green is still the dominant color in the spring landscape so choose a few plants with interesting foliage. Hosta grows in many shades of green including blue-green and gold-green. Hosta forms the perfect backdrop for spring flowers. Evergreens provide the garden with beautiful shades of green year-round. Variegated foliage, like that of the emerald and gold euonymus, brightens up the garden with a mix of light and dark colors.
Spring bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils, blue bells and crocuses, are planted in the fall and blooms as early as March. Bulbs are a very versatile flower as they're suitable for the perennial garden, the shrub bed or even for planting in the lawn. They're most effective when planted in masses so plant quite a few in each area.
Early blooming perennials are generally short lived and often quickly lose their lush green foliage (poppies & lupine in particular). Plan your flower garden so that annuals and later season perennials are ready to take over and provide the garden with colorful blooms. Be sure to deadhead the perennials as the flowers fade. Deadheading is the process of snipping spent blooms off a plant.
Designing your garden on paper before digging gives you a helpful guide while you plant. Though early flowers are welcoming sure signs of spring, be sure to incorporate all kind of flowers in the garden so there's continuous bloom from spring to fall.