Plants for Early Spring

Pining for spring? In the Pacific Northwest, there are lots of plants to collect in your garden that will get spring off to an early start and lift your spirits. I asked some of my gardening friends—designers, nurserymen/women and garden writers—what plants they considered their early spring favorites. I’ll share their responses over the next few weeks.

Linda Meyer, L Meyer Design and YGP exhibitor (booth #1473) – First choice is Helleborus ‘Jacob’ or Lenten Rose (basically any Hellebore, but this one and ‘Ivory Prince’ really show up during our lovely drab days!). Second is Gaultheria mucronata, aka Chilean Wintergreen (beautiful berries approx 1/4-1/2″ in diameter and dark red stems with the deep green leaves). Corylopsis pauciflora, Edgeworthia crysantha, and Fothergilla gardenii round out my favorites.

Anne Marsh, Marsh & Fear Garden Solutions  – Viburnum bodnantense ‘Pink Dawn’ is one plant I recommend to every client as it provides a fragrant pink bloom from December through February. The structure of the plant as an upright shrub allows it to be placed in many areas of the garden, but I usually recommend it outside a front or back door where one can enjoy its year round beauty. Once it stops blooming the leaves emerge in early spring and they often turn a nice color in fall. The plant can be pruned to stay at 6’ x 6’ but I love to give it a chance to grow even taller and wider. Some of the best examples of this plant can be seen at the Bishop’s Close garden in SW Portland off of Hwy 43.

Brian Bauman, Bauman Farms and YGP exhibitor (booth #969) – Corylopsis spicata, aka Spike Winterhazel, is sweetly-scented with pale primrose-yellow flowers that appear in short chains along bare stems. It provides a pleasing show when few plants are in bloom. I’ll have lots of them in our booth at Yard, Garden & Patio Show.

Judy Kokesh, Judy Kokesh Garden Design LLC – One of my favorites is Rhododendron ‘Shamrock’. It’s a dwarf Rhodie (about 2′ x 2′) with a mounding habit and is tolerant of sun or shade and drought. Looks great all year, but especially when it blooms around mid-March. I have it in a darkish corner of my garden with some yellow Hellebores as companions and Hinoki cypress and golden bamboo as a backdrop. Its size and habit make it perfect for a small urban garden, but it could also be massed for impact in a larger space.

Lindy Rutherford, Cloud Country Landscape Design and YGP exhibitor (booth #1701) – I love Sarcococca ruscifolia or Sweet Box. It is one of my early favorites for its beautiful evergreen foliage, shiny dark green leaves and those sweet fragrant dainty white flowers that bloom in January. It’s such a profuse bloomer, does well in the shade and is great for those dark entryways or north facing walls.

Cindy Capparelli, garden designer – I ♥ Edgeworthia chrysantha, aka Chinese Paperbush, because it blooms on bare branches when everything else is sleeping and it smells lovely.

Treda McCaw, nurserywoman – My favorite is Pinus contorta var. latifolia ‘Chief Joseph Shore Pine’, a coniferous, evergreen, dwarf tree that turns a spectacular shocking gold in winter, just when the garden needs a bright spot.

Dan Heims, co-owner Terra Nova Nurseries – One of the most stunning plants in my garden is Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’. Shade and moisture-tolerant, early, and showy, it’s in my top three perennials for early spring.

Phil Thornburg , Winterbloom Inc. and president of the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers (APLD) – One of my favorite all around plants is Osmanthus burkwoodii. It is a nice tidy easy evergreen medium sized shrub that can be a back ground or a focus plant in the Asian garden or planted as a formal or informal easy maintenance hedge. It blooms beautifully in late March with thousands of fragrant white blooms. They are fragrant and never grow crazily like a Photinia or a Prunus (English or Portuguese laurel).

Did you discover a new favorite? Something you want to try?