Marianne Binetti

Blooming triplets can get spring going early

You can plant a hellebore once and it will return year after year with late winter and early spring blooms.
You can plant a hellebore once and it will return year after year with late winter and early spring blooms. Olympian file photo

Winter ends with the first blooms of spring. If you need more early spring color in your landscape consider adding one of these early bloomers: hellebores, primroses and snowdrops.

Three cheers for the triplets of early bloom.

Hellebores

This is a tough perennial plant, which means you can plant a hellebore once and it will return year after year with late winter and early spring blooms. Hellebores are slug, deer and drought resistant and thrive in part sun or even deep shade. The blooms are varied in petal number and color with double flowering varieties that resemble an open rose in shades of pink to deep purple to the more simple flower forms with single white blooms.

The newest hellebores have upright facing flowers and are even sold as indoor gift plants since they flower as early as December.

Growing tips: Hellebores have thick and fleshy roots so dig a very deep and wide hole and loosen the soil. Add some leaf mold or compost to the planting hole to hold moisture near the roots and your hellebore will be able to thrive with little or no extra summer water.

Maintenance: To better see the beautiful blooms and to prevent leaf blights cut away the old foliage from your hellebores in January or February. In spring you may find hellebore seedlings near the mother plants. Transplant these while young to increase your collection. Hellebores do not like to be transplanted or divided.

Primroses

The cheerful vivid colors of primroses are early bloomers, but they do need some protection from freezing if you purchase greenhouse-grown plants that have not been hardened off. You can bring potted primroses home and leave them in their plastic pots for a few weeks in a protected location before transplanting into the soil.

Growing tips: Slugs are the No. 1 enemy, so protect from slugs at planting time. Cool weather and partial shade make primroses happy, and they need plenty of organic matter added to the soil to keep the roots moist. The English primroses, Wanda primroses and species primroses are hardier but with smaller blooms than the traditional primroses sold at grocery stores and home centers. Visit a nursery to find these more unusual varieties.

Snowdrops (Galanthus)

Nodding, white, bell-shaped blooms will emerge even through the snow. These bulbs should be planted in the fall about 3 to 4 inches deep under shrubs, trees and in woodlands.

Growing tips: Snowdrops do not need to be divided often as they naturalize or spread on their own, but if you want to share or move a colony of snowdrops dig them up right after they are done flowering while the foliage is still green.

Reach Marianne Binetti through her website at binettigarden.com or write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw WA 98022
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