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Saturday, April 13, 2024
Growing Together: Keep an eye out for early bloomers
Helleborus flowers bloom in early spring. JOANNE YOUNG

Well, once again that furry, little, loveable groundhog – Wiarton Willie – seems to have accurately predicted the coming of an early spring (although, as I write this, there is a light snow falling).

It has certainly been an unusually mild winter — no complaints here.

With milder daily temperatures, some early-blooming plants have opened even earlier than normal.

As you’re out on a walk or driving around, you can already see some plants in full bloom. 

Here are some of the ones that you are seeing.

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)

As the name suggests, snowdrops are one of the first spring flowers to bloom, often blooming while there is still a bit of snow on the ground. 

This cheerful bulb is truly a no-fuss plant. It can be grown in a full sun or part-shade location in the yard.

Remember, because it blooms so early, deciduous trees are not in leaf yet and are not shading the ground where the bulbs are growing.

There are no known pests or diseases with this bulb. The plants will naturalize (spread freely) and form a colony. 

The bulbs for these plants are purchased in the fall (September/October) and planted by mid-November.

There are several cultivars of snowdrops available, including some double-flowering varieties. 

On a note of caution, snowdrops are toxic plants for humans, dogs and cats alike.

Avoid letting kids or pets come into contact with any parts of the plants or consider other, non-toxic choices.

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

Winter aconite is another bulb that bursts into bloom in early spring.

It is a low-spreading plant that opens up with a mass of upward-facing, bright yellow, buttercup-like flowers.

Winter aconite grows in a clump four inches high and about eight inches across. Its leaves are bright green. 

This plant will tend to self-seed (if happy) and naturalize.

It grows best in evenly moist, humus-rich soil in full sun or part shade.

Plant the bulbs in the fall and try not to disturb the planting area once the bulbs are put in the ground. 

This is one bulb that the deer do not like. 

Winter aconite is stunning as a border, along pathways, rock gardens and planted under shrubs and trees.

Lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus)

The Lenten rose (a.k.a. hellebore) is a perennial plant whose name comes from its rose-like blooms.

In addition, this plant is seen blooming in early spring, often during the Lent season.

The attractive plant is fairly easy to grow in the garden and will add a nice splash of colour to gloomy, shaded areas. 

This plant grows best in rich, well-draining soil kept somewhat moist.

It also prefers to be planted in partial to full shade, making it great for adding colour and texture to dark areas of the garden. 

The Lenten rose flower will begin blooming in late winter to early spring, lighting the garden with colours ranging from white and pink, red and purple to almost black. 

There are many varieties to choose from.

Heath (Erica carnea)

This low-spreading evergreen is now covered with masses of white–dark pink flowers. 

Winter heath is often referred to as heather, but true heather is the summer-blooming Calluna vulgaris. 

This low-mounding evergreen (reaching eight to 10 inches tall) makes a great ground cover for sunny areas and requires very little care. 

Plants can be sheared lightly after flowers fade, but not any later, as the next year’s flower buds are set in the summer.

Low maintenance, deer and salt-tolerant, drought-tolerant (once established) and easy to grow — all reasons to add this plant to your garden.

Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis)

Chinese witch hazel is a large-growing, rounded shrub or small tree.

They have been in bloom now for a couple of weeks.

It has unique, strongly fragrant, brilliant golden-yellow flowers from late winter to early spring.  

Each flower consists of four golden, ribbon-like, crinkled petals.

The flowers are clustered along bare branches.

Chinese witch hazels will grow 12 to 15 feet high and wide and do best in full sun to part shade in humus-rich soil with even moisture.

Witch hazels are also known for their beautiful gold to orange to scarlet fall colours.

Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca

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