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A Kaleidoscope of Early Spring Color

A Kaleidoscope of Early Spring Color

By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries

“All the leaves are down… and the sky is gray…” Yes campers, dull gray winter is here, and even the Mamas and the Papas would have been delighted with our passel of colorful perennials to put in your dream book. ‘Tis the season to check out what’s new and exciting from all the major plant introducers, and Terra Nova is here to help. Terra Nova selected plants that are some of the first out of the chute. These are all extremely important pollinator plants, providing the very first bees out of the nest with large draughts of nectar and pollen to get the nest started for the season.

Starting the list is Bergenia DRAGONFLY™ ‘Sakura’, an exceedingly long-blooming form of pig squeak with semidouble rose-pink flowers. Geum Rustico™ Orange blooms just as the bergenias hit their stride and then continue to rebloom into July. Being from the rose family, geums are tough plants tolerating many abuses and come out swinging. Another fine pollinator plant with much pollen produced over a prolonged period. For those who survive a winter with the white stuff, there seems to be a bit of desperation for color in the spring. Not only does Geum 'Sunkissed Lime' have lovely soft-orange blooms, but bright golden foliage as well. Two great pulmonaria follow with some of the earliest blooms of the spring.

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Bergenia DRAGONFLY™ ‘Sakura’

The DRAGONFLY™ Series offers a group of plants that features profuse blooms and compact glossy foliage that turns a dark purple in winter. DRAGONFLY™ 'Sakura' produces pink, semi-double flowers. “Sakura” means cherry blossom in Japanese, and the flower masses truly resemble said flowers. So many bergenia come through winter looking coarse and beat-up. ‘Sakura’ holds its color and forms a more petite twelve-inch mound. There are so many great reasons to grow this plant, but the best is that it fills the need for simplicity, beauty, and easy care. Loves growing in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4-9 and tolerates partial to full sun.

Learn more: Bergenia DRAGONFLY™ ‘Sakura’

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Geum RUSTICO™ Orange

Avens are long-lived perennials with a compact, mounding habit and numerous red orange flowers. It has dense, deep green foliage with large attractive leaves. The pollinators appreciate the long bloom time from April to July. Happiest in zones 5-9, this one forms a fourteen-inch mound its first year and can tolerate partial shade. Try planting with bergenia, hosta, and pulmonaria to provide a long-running buffet for the pollinators. These are equally lovely in a woodland setting or in a container. Geum are tolerant of moist conditions in the garden and look amazing with other moisture-loving plants like Primula beesiana.

Learn more: Geum RUSTICO™ Orange

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Geum 'Sunkissed Lime'    

Bright electric lime foliage and cheery, brilliant orange flowers cover this sweet gold mound. Geums add an early touch of color to the late spring garden. Our 'Sunkissed Lime' does double duty with a generous number of flowers and showy, sun-tolerant foliage. Flower stems stay short, averaging twelve inches in height on a sixteen-inch wide mound. Hardiness rolls in at zones 5-8. Happy in partial shade to full sun, this cultivar will bloom from April to June. Even though these plants appreciate moisture, they are fine in average soil and average moisture. Pair these with heuchera with complementary foliage and flower color for a terrific show.

Learn more: Geum 'Sunkissed Lime'

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‘Pulmonaria Dark Vader'

Move aside, Darth; this Vader is quite sweet! A fine, mildew-resistant plant with a super-strong habit. Brilliant silver spotting on the deepest emerald foliage is highlighted by jewel-like pink to dark blue flowers adorning this plant. Prized by the first bees and especially by the overwintering hummingbirds here, these give some of this first nectar of spring. Tolerates full shade but prefers partial shade and thrives in zones 4-9. Size is ten inches high by nineteen inches wide the first year. Dense foliage fills a pot well. A great companion with hosta, astilbe, tiarella and ferns in a shaded woodland setting.

Learn more: Pulmonaria 'Dark Vader'

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Pulmonaria 'Shrimps on the Barbie'

Wowsers! This large, spreading pulmonaria has an amazing number of large, wavy, deep shrimp-pink flowers in the spring. Foliage is green with prominent white spots. The heritage of this plant includes Pulmonaria rubra, which can bloom here in Oregon as early as January! The pollinators will thank you. Deer and rabbits dislike the coarse foliage which is quite mildew resistant. It’s great in zones 4-9. The ten-inch high mounds will spread to twenty-four inches wide in a good location in a single year due to its strong hybrid background. If planted in mass, it creates a traffic-stopping effect.

Learn more: Pulmonaria 'Shrimps on The Barbie'

About the Author: Dan Heims is president of Terra Nova Nurseries. He is an award-winning author who lectures throughout the world and was recently honored by The American Horticultural Society with the Luther Burbank Breeding Award, as well as the Perennial Plant Association’s Award of Merit. He was honored by receiving the Royal Horticultural Society’s Reginald Cory Cup for advancements in breeding.

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Photos courtesy of Suntory Flowers

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