Plants - Perennials

First flowers of spring

These sturdy perennials laugh at cold weather and are a treat for the flower-starved eye.

As the season progresses, taller yet still early perennials shine. The earliest lemon daylily (Hemerocallis flava, syn. Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus, Zone 4) opens scented trumpet flowers in warm garden corners the first week of May in Zone 6, slightly later in Zone 5. Tall, lemon lilies and arching stems of Solomon's seal (Polygonatum commutatum, syn. Polygonatum biflorum, Zone 5), dangling immature, white lockets soon to swell and expand, make a fine architectural display in a half-shady spot. This is finally the moment, as pale-faced gardeners are poking tentative trowels into the warming soil, that spring can be said to have officially sprung. You, of course, with the earliest blooming perennials, have already been in the garden for weeks!

Tips for early perennials
• Plant early perennials where they'll get strong light in spring. Place shade plants such as violets and primulas where deciduous tree foliage will eventually protect them from summer sun. Newly purchased plants or seedlings can be set out in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked.

• Feed plants with compost or aged manure in autumn so energy is readily available to them in early spring.

• Remove protective leaf and evergreen bough mulches early, as soon as frost is out of the ground, allowing sunlight to warm the ground and stimulate early growth.

• Divide early-blooming, low perennials in late spring or early summer when they are finished flowering. Taller perennials such as lemon daylily and Solomon's seal can be divided in late summer or early autumn.

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