How to choose flowers and plants for an early spring bloom

October 9, 2015

The sure cure for a gardener's wintertime blues is a vibrant spring garden. Fortunately, blooming is the first thing on the agenda for many plants when they emerge from winter dormancy, so early-spring colour is not difficult to create in any type of garden. Here are some tips for making sure your garden is ready to bloom in the springtime.

How to choose flowers and plants for an early spring bloom

Planning and planting

Begin with easy-to-grow spring-flowering plants for guaranteed success.

  • Combine spring-flowering bulbs with shrubs.
  • Add spring-blooming trees, such as flowering cherry and dogwood, and it's a cinch to orchestrate a garden blooming in harmony.

The colours of spring

When choosing shrubs and bulbs for early spring colour, be careful where you plant white-flowered varieties. When white blossoms are injured by frost, they invariably turn an unsightly brown, and they show every small bruise and bite. The same damage is usually less noticeable on pink or lavender blossoms.

  • White bridal wreath spiraea and the flowers of serviceberry, which always manage to look fresh and pristine, but in general, choose varieties with coloured flowers when it comes to early azaleas, tulips and lilacs.
  • The evergreen groundcover bugleweed, grape hyacinth, and other spring bloomers mix and match easily with the vivid yellow flowers of daffodils or brightly coloured tulips.
  • You can also choose bulbs with flowers in Easter-egg pastels.
  • If your garden includes spring-flowering shrubs like yellow forsythia or pink azaleas, lighten the scene with drifts of flowering groundcovers, such as white-flowered candytuft or lilac-flowered moss phlox.
  • Try to grow a few extra daffodils, hyacinths and tulips to cut and bring indoors to enjoy in a vase of water.
  • To avoid gaps in the flower garden, you can plant extra bulbs at the rear of a bed where the harvested blossoms won't be missed.

Choose the mood

Spring-flowering bulbs are the stars of the early-spring garden. Follow your personal taste and the style of your garden when deciding whether to grow them in naturalized drifts or in formal arrangements.

  • Most gardeners like to use small bulbs, such as crocus, snowdrops, and squill, as surprises, casually tucking them into the soil around shrubs and small trees.
  • Hyacinths and tulips have a uniformity that lends them to formal front-yard displays.
  • Couple spring bulbs with cold-tolerant pansies in similar or complementary colours.  

There is a bonus to all this spring splendour. The hidden benefit is that the garden becomes an enchanting place to carry on the activities of preparing for the coming growing season. Spring is a time of digging and dividing crowded perennials, setting out summer annuals, and planting new shrubs and trees. And, because the spring scene was planned and planted months ago, it's the result of late-summer and fall backaches that seem like ancient history when you're rewarded with flowers in spring. Like magic, garden plants are poised to take off as soon as days lengthen and the soil begins to warm.

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