Early flowering perennials signal the arrival of spring

Early flowering perennials signal the arrival of spring

What a treat to see some lasting colors in early spring. I have a few early flowering perennials that are beautiful now while others are just starting to break through the ground. I have several perennials that will take some shade and that pair well with hostas, ferns and grasses. I’ve had several of them for years and in recent years have discovered two new ones that I’ve added to my garden.

An ancient favorite wildflower that brings beautiful blooms is Virginia bluebells, also known as Mertensia virginica. Clusters of small, trumpet-shaped flowers emanating from a single sturdy stem look stunning in any garden site. It begins blooming in early spring with pink buds that later mature into blue flowers.

Virginia bluebells are a native plant that blooms in early spring.

I had one plant years ago and it produced other small plants that I transplanted into the garden. After Virginia bluebells flower and set seed, they die back to the ground. I have to be careful not to disturb this area otherwise the seeds that fell this year may not develop into a plant next year. When Virginia bluebells are mature and established, they have a long taproot and if I’m thinking of moving them, I have to be careful to dig deep enough to get the entire root.

These plants grow best in partial shade and rich, moist, well-drained humus. They look best when enough young plants have grown to form a large clump. However, when they go dormant in early summer, they can leave an empty spot in your planting area. Mixing them with ferns and larger hostas helps fill the space as the leaves of these plants branch out to cover the gap. Virginia bluebells are not bothered by deer or any other pest. They come quickly, show off their flowers, and then go dormant again until the following year.

For years I have avoided growing lungworts in my garden. I have been given it for 1 year and did not like the look of it. Then, I was introduced to a new lungwort that was proving to be a winner and which was just the plant to brighten up somewhere in my shady garden.

Pulmonarias, also known as Lungwort, are typically low-growing with basal leaves speckled in a fuzzy green. This new variety called ‘Spot On’ is known for its silver-spotted leaves and how easy it is to grow. The foliage is darker than the first one I had years ago and the leaves are narrower. I also love the fact that the leaves stay green all year long.

‘Spot On’ produces pink flower buds that open to a light blue color and age to a medium-sized blue flower in early spring. Buds and flowers appear at the same time for an attractive two-tone effect. After flowering, the vigorous habit of long green leaves speckled with silver spots will generate interest for the rest of the growing season. The mottled silver foliage is perfect for brightening up a dark corner in the shade. Fortunately, they are not bothered by browsing deer and rabbits. Lunga tolerates morning sun, but needs afternoon shade to avoid leaf burn.


“Spot On” is great for a shady spot in your garden

Another favorite is Bruneras. This stunning perennial is prized for its heart-shaped leaves and beautiful, delicate flowers. There are many different varieties and the two I grow are ‘Jack of Diamonds’ and ‘Queen of Hearts’. Both produce beautiful spring flowers above beautiful foliage. These bright blue flowers are found atop a long, slender stem just like the forget-me-nots but are not in the same family.


Prunera “Queen of Hearts” is a surefire winner

‘Jack of Diamonds’ has shiny silver leaves with contrasting green veins and is very distinctive and eye-catching in a shade bed. Planting them in a clump creates a sparkling ground cover but they can also be grown as individual plants tucked among other perennial shade plants.

‘Queen of Hearts’ has larger leaves that have a more pronounced heart shape. The clear silver overlay with narrower bands of dark green veins stands out and makes the leaf very interesting. These deer-, rabbit- and slug-resistant perennials will light up your shade garden with color and texture. The “Queen of Hearts” is a perpetual winner.

If you have more sun than shade, there are early-blooming perennials as well. Kandytoft (Iberis evergreen) It is an old favorite that I’m sure most of you have grown up with at some point. These easy-to-grow perennials now have some newer cultivars with different traits. ‘Snowsation’, a proven variety, is more compact with larger flowers that looks great in the garden. Both the old Candytuft and the new ‘Snowsation’ are hardy, deer and rabbit resistant and can be a great addition to any spring garden.

Candytuft Purity is a favorite of garden columnist Betty Montgomery.

Candytuft Purity is a favorite of garden columnist Betty Montgomery.

Other plants for sun are some different veronicas, also known as speedwell. They decorate the garden with spiers of flowers that bloom spring through fall, depending on the species, with some reblooming for an extended display. These easy-to-grow perennials are available in many sizes and colors, including shades of blue.

I always thought veronica flowers looked like little candles shining atop the plant, but last spring I discovered one called ‘Georgia Blue’. (Veronica is Swedish). It produces a mass of small blue flowers that grow slightly above the small, glossy green foliage. I planted it in a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade and it took off and is a wonderful plant that requires very little care. As fall approaches, the leaves turn burgundy in the fall before turning green again in the spring. It attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, deer and rabbits and is not a problem. I couldn’t believe how these few little plants I planted could grow together and form such a beautiful clump.

It’s a great time to be in the park with warm days and birds singing. Have a great time in the garden enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

To my readers: Welcome to visit my garden on Saturday April 13th. You can email me for more information. b montgomery40@gmail.com

Betty Montgomery is an accomplished gardener and the author of “Hydrangea: How to Grow, Plant, and Enjoy” and “The Southern Garden for Four Seasons.” She can be reached at bmontgomery40@gmail.com.

Betty Montgomery

Betty Montgomery

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Blooming perennials signal the return of spring. Here are some favorites.

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