First day of spring

My front garden on the west side of the house, but shaded by a bank of trees.

My front garden on the west side of the house, but shaded by a bank of trees.

I thought you might want to see what’s growing here now and how the garden looks mid-March. This is the front garden. From a distance, there isn’t much color yet. A few small narcissus have bloomed. The lovely ‘Tete-a-Tete’ is nearly finished. You may also be able to spot an occasional yellow pansy. Pansies and violas edge the front border in spring. Deciduous ‘Jane’ magnolia is trying to bloom at left, but I’m hoping it will hold off. We’re supposed to have snow and freezing temperatures this weekend. If we do freeze, the magnolia blooms will turn an ugly shade of brown, always a possibility every year. At this point, I won’t cover anything except the tree peonies in back. They only flower for a short time, and I want to see those crepe paper blooms flutter in the wind. I have two tree peonies, one having succumbed to the Oklahoma summer of 2011.

Iris reticulata 'Harmony' blooms beneath 'Jane' magnolia. It is finished before  'Jane usually starts.

Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ blooms beneath ‘Jane’ magnolia. It is finished before ‘Jane usually starts.

Tiny Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ are planted beneath the magnolia. I’ll take you up close to see them. These miniatures don’t bloom for long, but while they do, they are worthy of getting down on one’s stomach to snap a shot. Just gaze upon that intense purple. ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ is an icy blue, and I have it planted in the border alongside the garage. It’s already finished. I. reticulata ‘George’ also grows in the black mondo grass in the back garden, and in a protected area of the tiered beds. It’s already finished in the black mondo, but I’m still waiting to see it in the more shaded area near the back deck.

I didn't straighten this photo, but left the three green chairs as they really are. My entire garden rests on a hill.

I didn’t straighten this photo, but left the three green chairs as they really are. My entire garden rests on a hill. You can see the three types of tommies in front. ‘Ruby Giant’ is at left.

In the shaded front lawn, the only place I grow fescue, I planted three different varieties of Crocus tommasinianus, the species, ‘Ruby Giant’ and ‘Barr’s Purple’ just to see if they would work. So many things others can do in more moderate climates, I cannot do here. However, I like these bulbs in the small, green lawn of fescue. I’ll plant more this fall. The tommies actually show up better here than in the mixed border. Something to consider because they are so tiny. Below is a closeup of ‘Ruby Giant.’ It fairly glows in spring light. However, the other colors do too. One, probably the species, is behind ‘Ruby Giant’ on the right at the very top of the picture.

Crocus tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant' in the lawn.

Crocus tommasinianus ‘Ruby Giant’ in the lawn.

Here is a long view of the back garden.

Back garden spring

The back garden in spring is full of work still to do, but it’s beginning to take shape.

I’m really glad I began planting bulbs back here and spreading about seeds of blue Phlox divaricata–not yet blooming–for two reasons. First, it improved the look of the back garden in early spring, and second, it makes me get out there earlier to clear the leaves and tired perennial foliage before the bulbs bloom. I planted the same tommies in these beds, but they haven’t been as happy here as in front. Perhaps, the soil is too heavy. Before I planted daffodils and Leucojum aestivum passed along from my friend Leslie, I’d wait to do the back garden. I spent so much time on the front preparing for Easter that I had little time to do the back. Since we’re no longer hosting Easter for the family, I don’t feel like the front and my house have to be show ready. Bulbs need oak leaves cleared away for best bloom, and I find myself doing these chores much earlier. Then, I put shredded leaves on top. Yes, I see the irony, but oak leaves mat down in spring and stifle growth. Once they’re shredded, everything is bliss.

A shot on the right side of the back garden as I stand on the deck. The blue chairs need repainting.

A shot on the right side of the back garden as I stand at the top. The blue chairs need repainting.

Thank goodness I got to this garden early because an aster–I don’t remember which one–ran amok in the “wet” bed. Some asters (really non-asters now) are rhizomatous meaning they have underground shoots that help them take hold and spread. In dry soil, they don’t spread as much, but in wet clay they can be a real problem. Wet is relative here too. This bed has clay beneath the soil and remains wetter than most of the others. Much of our land is sandstone and sandy red soil, but I do have pockets of clay. Over the years, I’ve built up the raised beds over both types, but two remain more moist than others. They are also in partial shade which adds to their wetness.

One of my hellebores out of the Brandywine strain. I have three, and they are all similar, yet different.

One of my hellebores out of the Brandywine Series. I have three, and they are all similar, yet different. I like how this one holds its head up and faces you. The light yellow shows up well in the shade garden too.

The hellebores are at their peak in the back garden, and they seem to love this space. Maybe it’s the early morning sunlight. I don’t know, but they are more floriferous than the ones out front. However, they were also added later when I think better seed strains came along. The Brandywine Series is lovely, and it originated in David Culp’s garden. Culp recently wrote The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage, which my friend, Carol, gave me. Although I can’t grow many of the plants Culp suggests from experiences in his Pennsylvania garden, his techniques are helpful and proven. Plus, I love his hellebores. Here is another.

Pink hellebore from the Brandywine Series

One of the great things about hellebores is how they catch the light. Just look at the petals on this pink hellebore from the Brandywine Series.

This year, I also added some hellebores from the Winter Jewels strain, including ‘Jade Tiger,’ ‘Peppermint Ice’ and ‘Golden Lotus.’ All are double. I dragged ‘Jade Tiger’ and ‘Peppermint Ice’ home from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in my suitcase, and both went ahead and bloomed again after I planted them. ‘Peppermint Ice’ is below. My ‘Jade Tiger’ has the form of ‘Peppermint Ice,’ but it is green with dark purple edges.

Fully double 'Peppermint Ice' hellebore

Fully double ‘Peppermint Ice’ hellebore

I also added ‘Harlequin Gem,’ a double in a darker shade. If you’d like to read more about hellebores and seed strains, follow the links, above. Different seed strains have different strengths. I am starting to see hellebore babies now, and I’m glad. I’ve been moving them where I want them to grow The nice thing about hellebores is that they stay evergreen all year, but once they finish blooming, they are hardly noticeable throughout summer. You only see them once winter comes. They are also nice in really tough spots. I have one growing in a terrible place . . . yet, it keeps on blooming year after year. Cut off tattered foliage in early February to make the flowers more noticeable.

Narcissus with orange cups

Narcissus with orange cups

As for the daffodils, I gave up long ago trying to keep them straight. There are too many, and I’ve just decided to enjoy them. I hope you do too. Thanks for visiting.




I'm a writer, born and raised in Oklahoma, and an obsessive gardener who attempts to grow over 90 rose bushes, along with daylilies and other perennials. I also grow some mean tomatoes, and I'm gluten and casein intolerant, hence the gluten free blogs.

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29 comments on “First day of spring

  1. Jennie Brooks

    the asters that ran amok, that happened to me! remember the asters you gave me? they must be in a wet bed. i didn’t know what to do so they’re all still there!

  2. Pingback: First day of spring - Red Dirt Ramblings® | Natural Soil Nutrients |

  3. Maureen G

    Thank you, today I’ve learned about hellebores

  4. Cindy, MCOK

    Oh, those tommies! I can see why you love them so.

  5. Donna@Gardens Eye View

    Dee your spring garden is so alive and I love the Tommies…everything is covered in a fresh foot of snow but I am hopeful for a melt soon that lasts.

  6. Ann

    Are you familiar with the Bulb Hunter, Chris Wiesinger, who founded the Southern Bulb Company down here in Wood County, Texas? He goes out and ‘rescues’ old fashioned bulbs and propagates them. He spoke to our garden club not long ago and I found him very interesting. Here is his web site:

    Is that a lake behind your garden?

    1. Dee Nash

      Hi Ann, yes, I do know Chris. I reviewed his book last year, and I met him when he came to the GWA symposium in Oklahoma in 2007. I’m thrilled about all of the bulbs he’s rescued. He’s brought heirloom recognition to so many of our southern bulbs. As for the lake, we call it that, but it’s really a glorified pond. It’s so low the last few years, but a couple of good rains, and it will be full again one day.

  7. Carolyn

    I did enjoy my walk through your gardens. Beautiful… even in early Spring. Looks very peaceful and calm…of course that is accentuated by the piano music Pandora is playing on my computer at the moment. :)

    1. Dee Nash

      Thank you so much Carolyn. It is very peaceful and calm. I should do a slideshow with some beautiful music in the background. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Dee Nash

      Thank you Charlie. This is only the beginning. Spring is barely sprung from the winter trap.

  8. Rose

    Thank you for the tour of your spring garden, Dee–it’s lovely with all its promises of spring. Those Tommies just glow in the light, and the iris reticulata–well, I must, must plant some of these next fall! Fantastic hellebore collection!

    We’re supposed to have snow this weekend, too. Now that I finally have time to work out in the garden, I’m really getting impatient for warmer temps and dry days.

    1. Dee Nash

      Rose, I think hellebores are a sickness. I find myself buying a few more ever year because you can tuck them in almost anywhere, and they offer so much for so little. These are very happy ones. I’m tired of the snow. I want rain, but snow can stay away.

  9. Lea

    Beautiful blooms!
    I especially like the Hellebores!
    Lea’s Menagerie

    1. Dee Nash

      Lea, I love them too. They are favorites.

  10. Frances

    So lovely, Dee, in the fine, fresh light of spring. Your hellebore collection is magnificent. May there be crossing and seeding that produce even more wonders of nature!

    1. Dee Nash

      Frances, I love that “fine, fresh light of spring.” Isn’t that the truth? Summer sun is so harsh in the south, but spring light is full of hope and anticipation.

  11. Layanee

    It does look like spring in your garden! Love the long views so I can put things in perspective. Send it east please.

    1. Dee Nash

      Thanks Layanee. I’m going to try for more long views. I am now getting more snow. I know you don’t want more of that.

  12. Holly Rosborough

    What a beautiful place you have! Especially love the entrance to your back garden… it all looks like a little bit of heaven.

    1. Dee Nash

      Hi Holly, thank you so much for coming by the garden. If you’re ever out this way, we’ll go on a “real” tour. There is so much more. I didn’t show the tiered beds this time, or the border against the garage, or the potager. It’s a lot of work, but work I really love.

  13. Leslie

    Lovely! I love your hellebores and you motivated me to get a few myself last year. I hope mine end up as pretty as yours!

    1. Dee Nash

      Leslie, I bet they do. I’m always glad to enable btw.

  14. Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening

    I find my hellebores take a while to get going. They are sleep, creep, leap plants for me. Some asters (all right, their genus has changed, but aster is still their common name here) are about as bad as goldenrods for taking over. Loved the tour of your garden.

    1. Dee Nash

      Kathy, mine are too. I think these were already so big when I got them. Plus, they seem to love this hill. I think that’s why I’m so successful with them here.

  15. Jason

    Thanks for the tour of your garden. You are right that you cannot have too many spring bulbs!

    1. Dee Nash

      Thank you Jason. I’m with you on the bulbs.

  16. vickie moore

    What a joy to see your beautiful spring show! I love the way you tucked your crocus into the fescue. They really to show up so much better! And thanks for the tip on magnolia Jane! I just planted one yesterday and will give her a little jacket to get her through the weekend!

    1. Dee Nash

      Thank you Vickie! The cool thing is that the spring show is only opening the curtain. We are merely peeking behind it. So much more will come in the next few weeks. My Jane magnolia is trying to bloom. I keep asking her to wait.