Choice, color abound in spring
By LINDA STEPHENS-URBANIAK
Mercer Island Reporter Columnist
April 8, 2009 · Updated 10:50 AM
“The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la!” They fill our gardens and our hearts, and there are so many to choose from. Do you want shade plants? Take your pick! Do you need some for full sun? Even more! Spring is the easiest time of year to have a garden filled with flowers.
This is the time of year when perennials really show off their stuff. They burst from the ground and into bloom year after year. They can be as old-fashioned as bleeding hearts or as leading-edge as Arisaemas. Some are ground huggers; others lift their blossoms high and, blooming simultaneously, fill the air with scent and the garden with color.
Shade can be filled with color with several plants. Aquilegia or columbine grow from 12 inches to 2 1/2 feet tall, depending on the variety, and do well in light shade to full sun. They come in white, blue, purple, red, pink and yellow, and have flowers that are single or double on stalks that may boast up to 15 blossoms. Old-fashioned bleeding hearts grow to about 2 1/2 feet tall with little hearts in red or white dangling from long, arching stalks. Forget-me-nots, although they are annuals, have little blue flowers, which once established will continue to reseed as long as you garden.
Pulmonarias are other shade-loving, low-growing plants that boast blue, white or pinkish-red flowers. Although their small flowers are welcome in the spring, their spotted or variegated leaves are attractive all summer long, many lasting through the winter. Corydalis has attractive feathery leaves on short stems and bloom in yellow, purple or blue. They can be short-lived and can seed about, but the blue and purple ones are sometimes scented. Dodecatheon or shooting stars are another scented flower, but you will have to get down on your knees for a sniff of their white, or more often, bright pink posies, as they are rarely more than a foot tall.
For bright spring sun, the lovely Pulsatilla or Pasque flower has white, purple or red flowers and hairy greenish-gray, feathery foliage. The blossoms are large for the size of the plant and are followed by large, fluffy seed clusters that hold through early summer. The Pasque flower needs very well-drained soil. Another great sun bloomer is Bergenia or “pig squeak.” The mauve, pink, white or magenta clusters of flowers bloom above wide evergreen leaves on 1- to 2-foot stalks that can reach about 1 1/2 feet tall. They can occasionally re-bloom in the fall.
A low-growing, ground-covering mat of Aubrieta is just the right plant to spill over walls and rockeries. The tiny rose, purple, lavender or deep red flowers cover the gray-leafed mat in the spring. This plant needs good drainage and regular watering. Although rarely over 6 inches high, it will spread to cover an area up to 2 feet across.
Erysimum, or wallflowers, are perennial or sometimes biennial plants (they grow one year, bloom the next and then die) that love the sun. They can be covered with bright yellow, orange, reddish-orange, pale yellow, cream or burgundy four-petaled flowers. They have a delightful scent and make good cut flowers. The hybrid ‘Bowles Mauve’ blooms almost continuously from spring through fall in a mauve purple. Most wallflowers are fairly short lived, rarely lasting for more than three to five years.
The bulbs are up and blooming, and with the addition of some wonderful flowering spring perennials, the garden can be a wonderland. With so many to choose from, there is something for your garden, whether or not you have sun or shade.
Linda Stephens-Urbaniak can be reached at Lindagardenlady@speakeasy.net.