I love spring. It is my favorite season. I hate the winter, although I think it is absolutely beautiful. Spring brings a sudden reprieve from all the cold and slush. My favorite flowers bloom in the spring – tulips, lily-of-the-valley and peonies. I love walking outside on that first warm day that you realize the sun is shining, it’s warm enough that you don’t need a coat, the birds are chirping, and the sky is that perfect blue that it seems to only be in Spring.
Spring this year has been sort of touch and go. We’ve had warm weather, followed by freeze warnings. There was a big snowstorm in April. The flowers are confused, I’m confused. It finally seems to be warming up for good, and that makes me want to get outside and plant flowers. I thought I’d put together a list of the easiest spring flowers to grow, and some tips on the best ways and places to plant them. While it’s true that bulbs should be planted in the fall, enjoying some flowers now and separating and planting them when they are down to just greens is a great way to have them both this year, and in the springs to come.
At my old house we had both snowdrops and crocuses. I plan to plant them both at the new house too. Seeing the first snowdrops poking their little white heads through the snow always let me know that if I held on for just a little longer, spring would be here soon. Then the crocuses would come up and add their beautiful purple to the landscape.
Snowdrops, like many bulb flowers, are very easy to deal with. They do well in cooler temperatures, and can bloom for months at a time. They are great for dividing so if you know someone with Snowdrops in their yard, they are easy to share. Plant them while they still have green leaves showing, and be sure to divide them every three years. They tend to clump together, which means they are competing for the same area of food and water, so dividing them and spreading them out after the flowers have gone away is necessary to keep them healthy.
Although Crocuses also do well in cooler climates, they prefer full-sun, and soil that has good drainage. These don’t grow from a bulb but from a corm, which looks a bit like a tiny bulb or cluster of tiny bulbs. Generally, crocuses don’t need dividing, but if they start to spread and do well you will want to divide them or they will start growing more leaves and fewer flowers.
Tulips are another bulb flower. Thanks to breeding and hybridization they come in an absolutely stunning number of colors and shapes. They too like sun and dryer soil. Bulbs tend to rot when the ground is too wet. You want to bury the bulbs deep, about 3 times the size of the bulb under the soil. Planting them in clusters of 10-12 works well, but I’ve also seen them spaced out singly in a line and that can look pretty too.
The biggest, some would say gaudiest, of the spring flowers that I love is the Peony. I was introduced to these while renting a house where the landlord’s wife had planted some, and I fell in love with them. The huge blooms are like beautiful faces looking for the sun, and I can’t help but smile when I see them. My favorite is the pale pink variety, Sarah Bernhardt, which is huge, but delicate-looking, but I enjoy the brighter colors too. These flowers require a lot of sun and, like the ones above, well-drained ground. Actually, most of the spring flowers here do. Peonies are actually bushes or trees, and can grow pretty tall, sometimes nearly 5 feet. Peonies can take you from spring into summer if you plant a few different varieties, and the plants live a very long time so plan to have them around nearly as long as you are!
For a terrific scent, you can’t go wrong with Hyacinth. There are so many varieties to choose from. When I was a kid I planted grape hyacinth, which look like little a tiny bunch of grapes on a little green stem. They also come in pink, white and a variety of other colors. You can force these in containers (plant them and make them bloom at any time) very easily, as you can with many spring flowers.
Finally, the tiny Lily-of-the-Valley, which I’ve always loved. These grew around the foundation of my aunt and uncle’s house when I was very little, and I was fascinated by their tiny bell-shaped flowers and pretty perfume. They are, however, poisonous to people and animals, so be careful about where you plant them. You wouldn’t want your kids or pets to get into them. As a bonus, after the flowers disappear you will sometimes see small green berries that can ripen to red.
What are your favorite spring flowers or plants? Do you prefer bright flowers, or more subtly colored ones like Lenten Roses?