Early Spring Garden Discoveries

It’s always exciting to pull back the leaf mulch in early spring, to discover the new growing tips of perennials. With the perfect weather continuing, I’ve been able to do my earliest spring garden cleanup, following the edge of the melting snow. Not only did I find the new growth of Brunnera, Campanula, Pulmonaria and Iris, but many bulbs were popping up under the leaves too, while the evergreen perennials were able to expose their leaves to the warm sun. I was very impressed to find the first colourful buds of snow crocus, striped squills and snowdrops, the earliest flowering time ever in my garden, due to the extra warmth.

Crocus chrysanthus' Gipsy Girl' (snow crocus) buds
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Gipsy Girl’ (snow crocus) buds

Here are the adorable buds of Crocus chrysanthus ‘Gipsy Girl’ (gypsy girl snow crocus). The sunny yellow petals, with maroon stripes on the outside are perfect for spring, so bright and cheery after the drabness of the leaf mulch. They will be solid yellow on top when they fully open. The snow crocus lived up to their name, with many of them popping up at the edge of the melting snowline. The bulbs couldn’t wait when the warm weather arrived, and were shooting right through the snow and last fall’s leaves.These are perfect for a northern garden, to start the flower parade with a jolt of colour, as soon as possible.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Blue Pearl' (snow crocus) buds
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’ (snow crocus) buds

The Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’  have tight buds that are just about to open. Although they look white in the photo, the flowers are actually a pale blue, with the yellow anthers visible within. Each bulb is sending up two or three buds, so there should be a good display when they fully open.

Crocus emerging through snow and leaves
Crocus emerging through snow and leaves

This is typical of the bulb garden areas before I cleaned up. The new, hardy crocus tips are emerging at the edge of the receding snow, right through last year’s leaves.

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' in March
Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’ in March

I had to throw in another shot of the very photogenic Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’.  These beauties look great all year long. It is hard to believe they can keep their leaves in such pristine condition through the coldest winter weather. I only had to remove about three leaves from a total of six plants. Our snow cover helps protect them over winter. This picture really shows the colourful red stems, contrasting with the green patterned leaves. Underneath the leaves are small red buds that are enlarging. They’ll rise up above the leaves when they flower, facing upwards, to make a showy display.

Heuchera 'Mint Frost' in March
Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’ in March

The Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’ (coral bells) leaves have the  apple green look of fresh leaves, but this is last season’s foliage, preserved beautifully under the snow. I only had to remove one or two leaves, but the rest have the fresh look of spring already. Some of them still have the darker veining they get in late fall. I made a note to plant more Heuchera, since these plants look super, right from the first melt, up until they get covered by snow in late fall.

Heuchera Plum Pudding (coralbells) in March
Heuchera Plum Pudding (coralbells) in March

These three Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ (coral bells) plants are intensifying their flashy colour. No other perennials are up in this area of the garden, yet, but these plants look brilliant with such saturated colour.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) leaves in March
Asarum europaeum (European ginger) leaves in March

The evergreen leaves of Asarum europaeum (European ginger) make the garden look green as soon as the snow melts. The wild gingers are great for late fall and early spring appeal when there isn’t much green to be found. I love how this glossy groundcover looks as an edging in the garden.

Cornus canadensis (bunchberry) in March
Cornus canadensis (bunchberry) in March

Cornus canadensis (bunchberry) is another perennial with evergreen leaves that gets the garden off to a quick start. This groundcover is already colouring  the area under the evergreen on the north side of my house, while I wait for the other plants to start growing.

garden cleanup leaf mulch and snow
garden cleanup leaf mulch and snow

Here is what most of the garden beds looked like before I removed the mulch. You can see that there are still bits of snow left here and there, with lots of leaves and sticks.

ladybug on leaf in spring
ladybug on leaf in spring

I enjoy peeling back the leaf layer to see the first stirrings of new perennials, but there are  some sleepy seven spot ladybugs to discover, too. I carefully shake out all of the leaves, looking for the bright red, and set them aside. It’s almost time to start back to aphid munching. This one is so shiny, I can practically see myself in the reflection on its back. :)

I’ve never had flowers in March before, since most years the earliest bulb starts near the end of April.  With the beautiful weather, the gardening cycle started about 3 to 4 weeks early this year. The early spring bulbs and evergreen perennials make fabulous additions to the garden, since they help counteract the blandness of a typical March and April in Edmonton.

21 thoughts on “Early Spring Garden Discoveries”

  1. Wonderful post Northern, you have so much going on! The striped flower buds are stunning, and it’s so nice to have evergreen perennials. I hadn’t considered it as a priority before, but do have a few here and there & it really makes a difference. I have also been finding ladybugs, and I agree that it seems much earlier than usual.

    1. Rebecca, finding the first buds and new growing shoots makes the spring cleanup so enjoyable. I look forward to each new section. Most of the evergreen perennials only had a few leaves floating above the sea of leaf mulch, so it was satisfying to set them free. Usually. I keep the leaves on longer for protection, but the extended warm spell, and forecasts for more, put me in the gardening mood.

  2. They look very healthy your perennials, almost even better than mine. But our winter have been longer than usual and that might be the reason. It’s great to see them all laying there under the snow and the leaf layer just waiting for the first sunbeam. If this is unusual late for you, makes me wonder how far north you live? Hurray for spring!

    1. Gittan, winter is long here at 53º N latitude and inland. Last year I had the earliest bulb flower on April 20, and the first perennial flower, Helleborus, in May. This year I have added an April column to my bloom time spreadsheet, which used to start in May. I’ve been outside in the garden for hours everyday this week.

      Rosie, I miss the flowers in February and March. Forcing bulbs indoors is fun, but there’s nothing like getting out and playing in the soil. I grow a lot of early bloomers and bulbs to lengthen the garden season, and because I love the first burst of colour in spring. Also, many of the woodland plants that grow well in shade flower early. However, it’s still a long wait from fall until the garden gets going again.

  3. Hi Northern Shade, Very exciting to see so much happening in your garden. I hope this means something is stirring under the soil in mine, as I took a walkabout yesterday as soon as I got home and still no signs of new life. Although I shouldn’t complain because this is unusually early. I still have a fair bit of snow on the northfacing side of my garden as it was drifted quite deep there this winter. Hopefully that will have been good for the plants during our cold spell.

    I love your Gypsy Girl crocus – it is adorable! – and I think I can see you in the reflection of the cute ladybug’s back. Enjoy this glorious weekend!

    1. The Garden Ms. S, I was very pleased with how many plants were coming up so early this year. The last of the backyard snow disappeared yesterday, and there are lots of bulb tips all around the garden, along with more perennial stirrings. When your pile melts, I bet they will start popping up quickly.

      It feels great to be out in the warm sunshine, gardening in a t-shirt. I don’t normally remove the mulch so early, but I’ve been lulled by the predictions for great weather over the next week, and the bulbs were growing right through everything, so I decided to join in.

  4. You are early this year, we are late…but we are still a bit in advance compared to your garden. The Heuchera looks very healthy after such a long winter you had. Maybe I should plant some here, I’ll have look for them next week at the perennials market in Berlin.
    Frohe Ostern wünscht

    1. Sisah, The Heuchera foliage stays well preserved after a long winter. We do have reliable snow cover, which helps protect them, and they also get covered by the tree leaves in the Fall. Their evergreen leaves give a fast start to the garden in spring, while waiting for the new perennial growth.

      Have fun checking out the new perennials next week. I’ve been making lists, but haven’t ordered any yet, and it will be a little while until perennials are for sale here at the local greenhouses.

  5. Hi Northern Shade, me again – just wanted to let you know that Greenlands said that while their official opening of their perennial house won’t be until the beginning of May, they expect to have the stock in mid-April and you can shop then. Will I shop early? I’m sure I will at least look around! :-)

    1. The Garden Ms. S, thanks for the info. I’ll probably take a look too. It’s always inspiring to look over the new perennials, and smell the greenhouse air.

    1. Sprouts, shoots and sunshine, the leaves on Ivory Prince make the plants very attractive, even before the flowers bloom. They are stiff, and have a pattern of silvery white along the veins. They’re very noticeable in the garden at this time of the year.

  6. Yes, it’s very exciting to see all the new spring growth. Every discovery is a treasure :)
    My crocuses have almost finished blooming and now the daffodils are blooming abundantly. How wonderful it is to see their cheerful faces again!
    I have 2 Hellebores and am eagerly awaiting their blooms. The passalong is white flowered but the other (store bought) is a mystery…only labeled “mix”.
    Your foliage came through better than mine. My heucheras are in need of tidying.
    I’m still waiting for the Brunnera to emerge. It’s in a very shady spot and is a late starter.
    Happy spring!

    1. Kerri, when the flowering cycle starts, you can anticipate each new bloom. The snow cover seems to do a good job of protecting the Heuchera, and I’m always surprised at how well the leaves survive the cold winter. I enjoy the hellebore buds as much as the flowers. Ivory Prince gets deep red buds that are very showy. Yours should be out soon.

    1. Shady Gardener, yes, we have had a very early bloom start, making a cheery garden for April. We are supposed to have a snowstorm tomorrow, which will slow the growth down for a bit, so it’s fortunate that most of the early bulbs tend to be hardy.

  7. Hi Northern Shade. It’s been a while since I last visited. I’m glad you are having an early spring. I am loving your yellow-striped crocus. I’m going to go back & write down the name for my bulb wish list. That’s a color combo you don’t see often in crocus.
    I can’t believe your Hellebore foliage. No wonder you wrote that comment to me about how you like them for that. Maybe mine are too young (just planted last year) & I need to wait a couple years for that to happen?? (I have about two leaves per plant) I hope they continue to increase in size and look like yours. Then I’ll totally understand.
    Happy Spring.

    1. Kathleen, The Gipsy Girl crocus makes a big splash for a little bulbs, with the striking colours. When they open, the tops are an overall yellow from above, but you can also see the stripes on the sides. The Crocus chrysanthus ‘Fuscotinctus have a similar colour combination.

      The leaves of ‘Ivory Prince’ are especially good looking, since they have a marbled pattern and a distinct shape. They are covered in snow or leaves for most of the winter, so when it melts, they are still in good shape. I have a group of six that are really noticeable before the rest of the perennials pop up. They create an instant spring garden.

  8. Question:
    Do you know how long one should wait before cleaning up a garden bed so as not to interrupt the ladybug eggs. I am waiting to clean up my garden,shrub and tree beds, but don’t want to disturb ladybugs in so doing.

    1. # 20, I’m not sure of the exact timing. I set aside the leaves in an out of the way spot to continue breaking down. I assume that most of the ladybugs can continue developing there. I do take time to check the leaves as I remove them for adult ladybugs. That’s a good question.

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