The sirens of spring include bulbs like tulip and daffodil as well as ephemerals such as bloodroot and trillium. I plant these beauties and look forward to them to waken my garden in early spring. But, it may be helpful to think of some alternatives when designing your space. I am going to take you on a walk through my March garden.
I have some large flowering tulips but prefer the species tulips such as tulipa clusiana.
The native species multiply but not aggressively, reliably come up annually, and their foliage is not so large to have to conceal when the flowers are gone.
I have found a preference for the large flowering crocus. In the past I have grown the autumn crocus and plan to order some this fall.
Hyacinth is such a sweet smell adding another sense to the garden.
The first blooms in my early spring garden are the aconites. I also appreciate their leaf shape.
Chionodoxa are one of the earliest to bloom and such a lovely color.
Ephemerals are perennials that come up every spring but then disappear when the weather warms. One of my favorites is bloodroot with its pure white flower.
Trillium is another ephemeral I would not want to be without.
Virginia Bluebells are easy to grow. They spread easily and have a fabulous blue color.
Bleeding hearts are an anomaly. Sometimes they disappear but other years the leaves persist till fall. The foliage is interesting.
White bleeding hearts are another favorite.
I do love the bulbs and ephemerals but they have challenges for the gardener. For example when they disappear it could leave a whole in the garden. This can be overcome by strategic placement with other perennials and shrubs. The bulbs also have dying foliage to contend with. I think a better solution for the early spring garden is to plant perennials with nice foliage texture along with flowers that bloom in March. Bergenia is one example. The foliage is evergreen (another great design feature) and has large blooms.
Brunnera with its beautiful forget-me-not like flowers offers outstanding foliage throughout the garden season.
Corydalis with its large yellow flowers and fantastic oak-leaf like foliage.
Probably my favorite is the hellebore. Blooming early March with long-lasting flowers. This perennial is evergreen and many cultivars have outstanding foliage.
Pulmonaria with its variety of spots is the perfect shade perennial. Mine have been blooming for several weeks in shades of pink and blue.
Epimedium is a great plant for dry shade. Again, evergreen in our Midwest gardens.
Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) known in China as the flower that welcomes spring is not a true climber but more of a scrambler.
Ground covers can also have blooms. Lamium ‘White Nancy’ has white blooms that complement the white center of the leaf.
A different lamium with purple blooms.
Open up the way you think about spring when you are designing your garden. I know we are inundated with catalogs with the beautiful bulbs but you may be more satisfied with your garden if you plant perennials with outstanding foliage that will last throughout the season.