For best results, plant tulip bulbs, pointed ends up, about 6-8 weeks before the first hard frost in your area. Larger bulbs should be planted deeper (usually 8-10” deep) than smaller ones (usually 5-6” deep). Because tulips need a certain amount of cold weather to flower, they may not come back after the first year or two. If you live in a mild climate, ask your local county extension service agent if you should buy pre-chilled tulip bulbs, or chill them yourself, in your refrigerator, before you plant.
This small flowering cherry hails from the U.S. National Arboretum’s plant breeding efforts. It’s well suited to small yards, growing to 25 feet tall with a spread of 15 feet. Pale pink flowers open in early spring. Leaves appear after flowering, unfurling to dark green. Fall color is gold. This tree boasts a hearty disposition, tolerating insects and disease. Hardy in Zones 6-8.
Cheerful daffodils are classic spring flowers. For a natural look, toss them around your yard or landscape and plant them where they fall. Choose big, healthy bulbs and plant them 6" deep about 2 to 4 weeks before your ground freezes. They need sun to part sun and will come back year after year; they're hardy in USDA zones 3-8. 'Sunshine Boys,' pictured here, is a blend of early-blooming daffodils.
When choosing dwarf Alberta spruce for pots, consider miniature varieties, like Tiny Tower (Picea glauca conica ‘MonRon’). This little cutie reaches a maximum height of 4 to 6 feet tall and up to 2 feet wide. The slow growth rate means you can keep it tucked into containers for a few years. Tiny Tower has bright green leaves that shift to gray as they mature. It’s hardy in Zones 3 to 8. At Christmas, you’ll often see mini Christmas trees in pots. These are usually dwarf Alberta spruce and can be planted into the landscape after the holiday.
Candytuft often attracts butterflies with its spring blooms, which can last for weeks. Give your plants a spot in full sun, and avoid heavy soils that stay wet during the winter. The plants grow about 6-12" tall and will slowly spread to make a pretty groundcover (but don't walk on them). Use this evergreen as a border, in a rock garden or let it spill over a wall or from a windowbox. After the flowers die, give the plants, which are hardy in zones 5-9, a light shearing to keep them bushy. 'Lavish,' shown here, has beautiful, deep lavender flowers.
Brighten a part shade to full sun setting with colorful, deer-resistant Golden Rule St. John’s wort (Hypericum calycinum). Also known as hypericum, this plant has a form that falls between a small shrub to ground cover. As it establishes, it fills in a planting area with its gold leaves. Yellow flowers appear in summer, beckoning bees and butterflies. Fall color includes orange and gold shades. Plants grow 12 to 18 inches high by 12 to 24 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 6-8. Good to know: For best growth and color, prune plants in spring and again after flowering.
Moonflower vine is the after-dark cousin to morning glory. This annual vine opens stunning 6-inch-wide white blooms—loaded with fragrance—starting at dusk. On a warm summer’s evening, it’s pure joy to sit on a patio and watch the moonflowers twirl open. Plant moonflower on a trellis with morning glory for a spectacular sunrise to sunset show. Like morning glories, each moonflower blossom lasts a single day (night). This annual vine grows to 20 feet, twining its way around supports. Soak seeds overnight or nick them prior to planting. Why we love it: The sweet fragrance is tough to beat, and the moths that pollinate the flowers are a delight to watch.
Morning glory is the flower of early risers, who get to enjoy these gorgeous blooms at their freshest. ‘Celestial Mix’ features vines that unfurl a trio of stunning flower colors: midnight blue, snow white, and lavender-blue. Each flower features a contrasting star in the center of the bloom. Morning glory climbs by twining. Simply plant it beside a trellis or support, and the vine will do the rest. Nick or soak seeds overnight to aid germination. This annual vine grows 6 to 7 feet tall. Cut down vines after frost and compost or destroy. Doing this helps to minimize potential disease issues. Why we love it: Flowers unfurl like magic each morning, and if you’re patient, you can witness the event.
Hops offers a nice ornamental form that works well in the garden on a pergola or strong, well-anchored arch. The flower, known as a cone, forms in late summer. This is the part you harvest to make beer. ‘Cascade’ hops (Humulus lupulus ‘Cascade’) is a disease-resistant vine that ripens cones used to make American pale ales. Pick cones in late summer, dry them in a warm, dark place, and freeze in airtight bags until you’re ready to brew your own craft ale. Undemanding hops vines are easy to grow. After vines die to the ground with frost, prune to ground level and wait for new growth to appear in spring. Vines can grow to 25 feet high in one season and up to 6 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.