Karen Chapman | , , , , , , , , , , , , , || By
After being buried under snow for weeks, my Seattle garden is finally green again – with splashes of yellow, blue, pink, and white as spring-blooming perennials and shrubs wake up. It’s so exciting to see color! Inevitably a few things look worse for wear after the winter – especially some of my containers, but rather than look out on these winter-weary pots for two months I’ve decided to give them a mini-makeover but do so on a budget. That doesn’t mean compromising on design or quality. It simply means working with versatile elements that can be re-worked into my summer designs or transplanted into the landscape.
Re-thinking the plant selectionIf you usually fill your pots with “color spots” for spring, this may be a new idea for you. But rather than being long-term investment pieces, those tempting pansies and grocery store primroses all get thrown away after blooming. Here are some ideas for spring blooming interest that will continue to offer value for months or even years after their initial container planting. And there are so many more….
Spring blooming shrubsAndromeda (Pieris japonica) Whether your container is large or small you’ll find a variety of andromeda that fits. From smaller, mounding varieties with variegated foliage such as Little Heath (my personal favorite), to dwarf but upright and green-leaved Brookside and wildly flamboyant Flaming Silver – a much bigger girl – they all offer colorful new growth and fragrant spring flowers. Many can also be purchased as small as a 1 gallon (6″ diameter pot) so can be included in a mixed container design then transplanted to the landscape to reach its full potential. Winter daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata’) Who can possibly resist the fragrance? Not me! And the variegated foliage of this winter daphne is perfection year round. I recommend transplanting it into the landscape before it becomes totally root bound in your pot. Put one near your front door. Perennial candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) Is it a shrub? A perennial? A groundcover? A rockery plant? Who cares – perennial candytuft is an old fashioned, spring-blooming favorite, often available for purchase as a 4″ pot. Tuck it into the front of your spring containers then add it to the landscape to start a nice broad spreading groundcover for next year.
Spring blooming perennialsBleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spp.) While the classic pink bleeding heart may be too big for all but the largest pot, there are many more compact varieties well suited for containers – and then the landscape. From the gold foliage of Goldheart, to the deep red Valentine and the pure white form of fringed bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos eximia ‘Alba’), the ferny foliage and delicate dangling blooms make for a sensational spring container inclusion before transferring them to your shade garden to enjoy in perpetuity. (Bonus – these are deer-resistant) Barrenwort (Epimedium spp.) Perfect for dry shade under conifers but why not enjoy them in containers for a few years first? Many varieties to choose from with flowers that range from yellow to white, orange, lavender and red. The new foliage growth is spectacular too (Rubrum is my favorite for foliage color). Here are a few landscape design ideas using them. Heuchera, Heucherella, Tiarella While these are all foliage plants, many start blooming in spring too, attracting hummingbirds and adding another dimension to the display. So many colors to choose from! Which is your favorite? Lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.) Silver-spotted leaves, dancing flowers in shades of pink and blue, a hummingbird siren, drought tolerant, easy to grow – why haven’t you got more of these?! Add lungwort to your container this spring. After blooming cut it back hard (leaves as well as flower stalks) and it will quickly return in two weeks with large, healthy leaves to outdo the fanciest of hostas (and much cheaper too!). Pasque flower (Pulsatilla spp.) Underutilized yet such a rock star in the garden, pasque flowers have beautiful flowers in shades of red, and purple, wispy seedheads and fern-like foliage that lasts almost all year. Adding them to a container is a great way to start your collection! Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) One of the earliest perennials to leaf out, Jack Frost is still a firm favorite for me with its silver and green, heart shaped leaves and sprays of forget-me-not type flowers that make perfect mini-posies for the table. This is a perennial that can stay in the container for your summer designs too as the leaves are so decorative. English primroses (Primula vulgaris) I’m not a fan of the jellybean colors of grocery store primroses, preferring those that look more natural in a woodland setting. The Wanda primroses are true perennials but I also love the classic wild English primrose with its pale butter-yellow flowers. (I grew mine from seed). They look delightful in the woodland garden mingling with Georgia Blue veronica – why not use these two companions at the front of a container instead? Incidentally these were among the first flowers I introduced my daughter to over 30 years ago….start them young!
Watch, Learn and GrowDo you learn best by watching rather than reading? Many of us do and that’s why I’ve created this new online workshop for you:
Creative Container Designs for SpringWatch two videos of me planting two unique designs for spring that highlight using versatile, inexpensive or FREE elements, download the planting plans, and get the plant lists – all from the comfort of your own home. There’s even a bonus downloadable excerpt from my new book Deer-Resistant Design – a winter/spring container design for shade that is deer-resistant too! Check out the details and use coupon code spring10 to get 10% off through March 31st.
It’s been a busy week as I’ve been hard at work on a special project for you! (More about that later…) Are you curious to see what’s happening in your neighbor’s garden? Do you sneak a peek while out walking the dog? Don’t blush – we all do it! Well I know I’m rather off…Read More →
When six plant-crazy women (collectively known as #NGBplantnerds), six overstuffed suitcases, numerous bulging camera bags, a LARGE bag of yummy snacks, and rather a lot of plants squeeze into a minivan for a Californian road trip, you can bet there’s going to be some laughs, plenty of wine, and lots of fun. You can also…Read More →
When I realized that my post Skinny Conifers for Tight Spaces has been read over 40,000 times, it inspired me to create a free booklet for my newsletter subscribers; Top 10 Skinny Trees for Tight Spaces, which expanded that selection to include deciduous and flowering trees as well as conifers. That too has been well…Read More →
Bleeding hearts (Dicentra sp.) get all the love. Cute name. Delicate foliage. Distinctive blooms. Yet there is another spring blooming perennial I get even more excited about. Whether you know it by the common name Bishop’s hat (UK), barrenwort (USA) or the botanical name Epimedium, this perennial deserves your consideration for a space in the…Read More →
Sometimes there are just too many choices. You know the scenario: there is an opportunity to buy a new plant (or three) but you are dizzy with all the possibilities and can’t seem to settle on a final decision. Well that’s me right now – so I’m inviting you to share your ideas. The Challenge…Read More →
So much color, so many ideas, so little time! That’s the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in a nutshell. Thank goodness for my camera because that’s how I can look back on special visual highlights to glean ideas for my own garden and share some of my favorites with you. In this post I’m focusing…Read More →
The Northwest Flower and Garden Show is always a source of inspiration and this year was no exception. One display garden that really caught my eye was called Contained Excitement, designed by my good friend and former colleague Lori DeLeuw (Designs by deLeuw) and David Rogers (Issaquah Landscaping). This was their design statement: Here’s the…Read More →
I’m a lazy gardener. I want to enjoy my garden – not be a slave to it, which makes me really picky when it comes to selecting plants. You’d think by now that I’d have enough plants wouldn’t you? Funny how we always find an excuse to go shopping come spring. Something has always been…Read More →
I recently asked a group of gardening friends, if they could change anything about their garden, what would it be. The first – of many comments read ” Make it bigger, much bigger! So many plants, so little space…” A common lament, yet having a modest sized garden does not mean compromising on function, style,…Read More →
The Christmas decorations are packed away in the barn for another year and I’m back to work, excited for all the things ahead. I’m not one for resolutions, except for perhaps re-committing to myself, my family, and to you to always give my best. My parents instilled their sense of integrity and strong work ethic…Read More →
Welcome to My Garden Adventures
I'm a serious plant-aholic. In other words I'm usually covered in a layer or two of soil, I drive everywhere with a large tarp for impromptu plant purchases and I'm truly passionate about sharing the joys of gardening.