Like so many others, I’m ready for cold weather to go away and pleasant spring weather to arrive. Just be thankful you don’t live any further north where winter hangs on for what seems an eternity. I am also thankful for the many early bloomers that brave the cold to cheer the soul at this sometimes dreary time of year. You might find a spot in your yard for some of these to help chase away the winter blues.
Deciduous Magnolias. What a gift these wonderful small trees are to our early spring yards. Large blooms ranging from white to pink to purple burst out in glory in February and March before they leaf out. Occasionally the open buds will be wiped out by a hard freeze, but most years their display is full and glorious. There are many species and cultivars to choose from, and any are worthy of a spot in your yard. I have had one of the National Arboretum’s “Little Girls” releases called ‘Ann’ for many years, and her dark purple flowers are an annual welcome sight!
Flowering Quince. One of the early shrubs that heralds the coming spring is flowering quince. Flowering quince is a multi-stemmed shrub that pushes out its flowers very early and then recedes into the background the rest of the year. It is great for a mixed border planting where its flowers can be appreciated against a darker evergreen background. There are many varieties, and flower colors include white, various shades of pink, orange, and red. A new series of varieties recently released called Double Take sport very showy, large double flowers.
Pearlbush (Exochorda) is an old fashioned large shrub sometimes seen older neighborhoods. It gets its name because the swelling flower buds look like pearls, opening to pure white blooms. While it is attention-getting in March, it fades in to obscurity for the rest of the year. Best used in a shrub border. Recent new varieties trademarked Snow Day promise larger and more flowers.
Forsythia. Here is another old-fashioned favorite shrub that shines in the spring and then recedes into the background for the rest of the year. Bright yellow blooms catch everybody’s attention when it bursts onto the scene in early March. Many varieties are available.
Note that flowering quince, forsythia and bridal wreath all bloom on stems that grew the previous year, so delay any pruning of these and other early spring-blooming shrubs until after they finish flowering.
Japanese Flowering Apricot. Okay, this one is obscure, but many horticulturists rave about this very early blooming flowering tree (not a true apricot), that hopefully is slowly becoming more available. Its main attribute is very early bloom (occasionally cut short if a hard freeze happens). Many named varieties, but hard to find.
Early Spring Perennials. East Texas is known for its abundant display of narcissus, jonquils and daffodils, starting as early as December and going on through early April, depending on species and variety. Not only the white or yellow blooms bring visual cheer, but their fragrance is strong, and sometimes overpowering. They are easy to grow, long lived, and many multiply freely, making them a great investment to any garden. Best grown in masses or large drifts where they can have the greatest impact.
Hellebores, commonly called Lenton Roses, are another perennial that breaks the gloom of winter with their subtle, yet pretty flowers. They are evergreen, do best in partial, dry shade, so are perfect for those difficult areas where may plants fail to thrive. Some are sterile, others reseed to create welcome expanding colonies.