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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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) 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.
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.
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.