Spring Color (Anticipation)
No, I do not have much in the way of spring color in my garden; it’s too early for that. But I was interviewed this week for an article at IdealHomeGarden.com about spring color in the garden, and the subject got me dreaming about the spring color to come.
For those of us who garden in climates with a fairly long period of winter dormancy, spring emphasizes the benefits of mixed plantings that combine herbaceous perennials with woody perennials (shrubs), bulbs, and annuals. The first splashes of spring color in my garden come from flowering shrubs and spring bulbs. Right now, the flowers of witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) are putting on a show outside my office window. In my own garden, the first big color show will come from the bright yellow flowers of forsythia. While I might not find this bold, brassy yellow so attractive later in the season, its vibrancy provides an emotional lift after months of winter white. Later in the spring (mid-late May), another major source of color in my garden is the large rhododendron (species unknown) that covers the back slope with its pink flowers.
About the same time the bright flowers of forsythia open in my garden, the first flowering blubs appear. For me, these are flowers of crocus, daffodils and hyacinths. (Snowdrops bloom earlier, but white flowers are not what my color-starved brain yearns for after months of snow cover in my Maine garden.) Recently, I’ve planted some dwarf iris (Iris reticulata) to join the display of early flowering bulbs. Another favorite spring bulb is grape hyacinth (Muscari). I used to have these growing in my Maine garden, but they petered out. Planting them anew will be a task for my first year of retirement. Another of the “little bulbs” (as Elizabeth Lawrence called them) that I want to add to my garden is Siberian squill (Scilla sibirica). I am hoping to naturalize these in the grassy area between my back garden and the serenity garden and have them bloom in a carpet of brilliant blue each spring.
By the time the forsythia and early spring bulbs bloom, the green shoots of perennials have started to push up in my garden. In my Gettysburg garden, the first perennials (Phlox subulata and Pulmonaria) usually bloom in April, and these are quickly followed by bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis), Brunnera, volunteer columbines (Aquilegia), and early species of hardy geranium. My Maine garden follows a similar sequence, with patches of bright pink moss phlox appearing in late April or early May, followed by bleeding hearts, columbines, and geraniums. Last year, I added hellebores to my Maine garden, and it will be interesting to see whether these become the earliest perennials to bloom in my garden.
In thinking about spring color in the garden, I would be remiss not to mention foliage. Especially in Maine where there are usually several months of snow cover, all those shades of green in spring are dazzling! But foliage also comes in other colors. The red leaves of some varieties of Heuchera and the chartreuse foliage of Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ provide vibrant splashes of color in spring. One of my favorite plants for colorful spring foliage is the mass of Spirea x ‘Magic Carpet’ that grows at the far end of the deck border. Its new leaves first open in spring as red, then turn to gold, and finally mature to chartreuse.
So much spring color to look forward to! In just a few weeks, I will be enjoying these colorful plants in the real garden and not just in the virtual garden.