Spring is a time in our West Coast gardens where plants and shrubs begin to shine. What’s looking good in your garden, whether it be on a balcony grown in containers or out in the yard or community plot?
I have said it before and will say it again, the hellebores are going strong and looking fabulous. The blooms are still nodding off the plants and some of them started to flower way back in January. Now that’s longevity. I have a nice established mix of “orientalis” and ‘”Niger,” and some of the new cultivars like “ivory prince,” “pink frost” and a few of the new doubles. The leaf veining is more pronounced and interesting and looks good all season long.
My favourite addition to the early-season garden is Epimedium, sometimes commonly known as barrenwort. It’s mainly grown for the evergreen, heart-shaped leaves (some tinged with pink) which are held up with wiry, delicate stems. Very woodland garden-appropriate, epimedium usually produces pink or yellow flowers. I like to cut back the old, overwintered leaves early in March so that the new growth becomes the star of the show.
Tucked behind my epimedium is the love-it-or-hate-it bergenia, commonly known as “elephant ears” or rock foil. This evergreen perennial has leathery, bright green, large leaves, which turn scarlet red in the fall. Bergenia thrives in sun or shade, and at this time of the year it sends up a striking pink, white or red flower head above its leaves.
Another harbinger of spring is the lovely primula.
For something different, check out the rosette-forming primula “green lace.” The lovely lime green flowers have yellow throats with red veining that literally smother the plants with blooms. These beauties stand only four to nine inches tall and prefer dappled shade and half-day sun.
If you have a deeply shaded spot, tiarella “spring symphony” may be an excellent choice. Tiarella, also commonly known as “foam flower,” is an underused perennial you may want to try in a woodland garden. Tiarella is a clump-forming, low-growing mound with 15 inches of densely packed pink or white blossoms that rise above the leaf mound.
The foliage is beautiful in its own right, with deep-cut, lobed leaves, which are edged with black markings. This gem is a re-bloomer as well.
Try and branch out from bulbs and heather in the spring. Your garden will appreciate a new twist on familiar spring classics.