Spring checklists are full of motivation to get your garden in top shape for the growing season--there's soil improvement, dividing perennials, clean-up, mulching and a million other things to do. The avid gardener knows that all this work doesn't have to mean that your garden isn't working for you, too, in the spring. From perennials to bulbs to annuals, your garden has plenty of opportunities to start shining before the final frost passes.
Perennials are often thought of as summer flowers, but a number of perennials either bloom early in the spring or start in the spring for a long blooming season. When planting spring-blooming perennials, note that most plants will not bloom on the first year of planting; they need the year cycle of root growth for future show.
Some spring perennials include the ground cover creeping phlox, which blooms a blanket of tiny blooms that look great mingling with bulbs or tumbling over walls or through rock gardens, and moss phlox, which has a variety of similar blooms in a longer blooming season that lasts up to four weeks. Other flowers include the crested iris, a more compact plant than other iris varieties; Virginia bluebell, coveted for its dainty bell-shaped blooms in shades of purple and blue; lungwort and pig squeak, which are both grown as much for their interesting foliage as their spring blooms; and candytuft, an evergreen mounding plant with white flowers in the spring.
Most people think of bulbs when they think of spring flowers. The sight of that first crocus poking through the melting snow means spring is on the way, and the tiny crocus flower is one of the first to appear. Varieties of hyacinths, tulips, daffodils and anemone soon follow.
Bulbs take some care to plant but are simple to maintain and are best grown in a blanket, naturalized manner for best show. Avoid single bulb-planting tools, and, instead, opt for digging large areas for planting. Bulbs look great mixed with later spring perennials or among annuals for a seamless show of blooms and to hide fading foliage once bulbs are spent.
Most flowers that grow for only one season aren't hardy enough to survive in the ground through colder spring weather and are best when planted after the threat of frost passes. Some annuals that are hardy enough for spring blooming include pansies, violas, kale and flowering cabbage. Many of these plants have started showing back up in garden centers for sale in the fall for a second show of planting in those cool months, as well.