Peas and bulbs and phlox, oh my!

a photo of crocuses
Our crocuses are finally in bloom! Gorgeous photo courtesy of Matthew Artz
Tomorrow April begins, and with it us Zone 5-ers can at least begin to expect warmer weather (I have just guaranteed, by making this statement, that we will get one more snow storm here in Colorado. Sorry!). Yesterday it hit 80 here for the first time and that warm weather following so closely on the heels of the moisture last week has caused a flurry of activity in the garden.

As such, I thought I’d divide this post into what you should be doing in the veggie garden and what you should be looking for (or potentially planting later in the season) in your flower beds. Seeing the first crocus of spring (which we had just this week–a full month later than usual!) is as exciting to me as seeing the first spinach and pea sprouts, and my recent posts have been so veggie-focused that I want to give flower gardening a bit of love today too!

Spring Color Starts Now!
Bulbs such as crocus, daffodils, and grape hyacinth are traditionally the first harbingers of spring color in the garden, but did you know there are other bulbs that are both beautiful and hardy? My favorite is scilla, also sometimes called wood hyacinth. It’s just putting up flower stems from its location in my lawn (yes, we underplanted our lawn with both scilla and crocus to give us a little color before the grass greens up). If you’re looking for an alternative to fiddly/thirsty hyacinth & tulips, scilla is a nice way to go.

Another traditional favorite that is busy greening up in my garden right now is creeping phlox. You don’t have to grow your grandmother’s traditional lavender creeping phlox either. Check out this gorgeous white selection from Plant Select: Phlox bifida “Snowmass”. If you have these coming up in your garden right now, be sure to give them a little drink to help them green up and bloom faster!

Horehound is another one that’s really perking up in my garden right now. This one is pretty all season long and can really take a beating both in terms of child/puppy traffic and drought tolerance.

One plant that surprised me already this spring is Penstemon pinifolius or pine-leaf beardtongue. I have a couple of these cute little hummingbird attractors and they are putting out a ton of needle-like glossy green leaves right about now.

It’s about time for another one of my favorites (and a Colorado native) to start blooming too: Pulsatilla ludoviciana. Its European cousin, Pulsatilla vulgaris, is fairly easy to find and lovely in the early spring garden. I am trying to propagate Pulsatilla patens (native a bit further south here in Colorado), but so far, no joy! Best to buy plants on this one because starting from seed is tough.

If your yard is still looking “blah” and you’ve got Mother’s Day dollars to spend at the local nursery, any of these would be a good choice to plant this spring and enjoy next year.

April is Planting Time!
OK, before you go crazy planting tomatoes, I should clarify: April is planting time for cool-weather crops like onions, fennel, and cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage). If you’ve already started tomatoes and peppers indoors and are ready to start some additional flats, you can start your melons, cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins indoors between now and the end of April. The less space you have, the later you should plant these seeds because they get big quickly and you won’t want to plant them outside until mid-May if you’re in Zone 5.

My garlic is almost 6 inches tall now and really growing well now that the soil is warming. I’ve got volunteer leeks & sorrel coming up that are almost ready to harvest, and I’ve been stalking my asparagus bed like you wouldn’t believe looking for sprouts. Still no sign of the peas, but they should be sprouting very soon. Horseradish, tarragon, chives, and chamomile have sprouted as well and the oregano is already large enough that I’m thinking I may have to divide it before summer.

So it’s all happening folks. Spring is finally here!