The Garden In Spring

Orange Cupped DaffodilWow, the garden is starting to look great. The bulbs are up, ephemerals are doing their thing and the trees and shrubs are sprouting into life. 

This season is such a wonderful time, but what plants bloom early like ephemerals or stick around and offer beauty throughout the year?

Rhododendrons, azaleas and other ericaceous plants are the obvious answer, but they are rather old hat and you can only have so many in the yard.  What can we choose that offers variety and structure through the remaining seasons?  Here are just a few ideas…



Acanthus mollis ‘Tasmanian Angel’Acanthus mollis tasmanian angel

BEAR’S BREECHES – An absolute gem of a perennial with striking leaves boldly mottled and edged in white.  Plants will form large clumps in time and in summer are topped by tall spikes of hooded white flowers that turn bright pink. 

These plants do best in a shaded, well-drained site but are not overly fussy as to the type of soil.  Acanthus may stay evergreen during mild winters. 

Height:  60cm (1.25m in flower)   Spread:  1m+  Zone:  7


Brunnera Jack FrostBrunnera macrophylla var.

BUGBANE – An absolute staple for any shade garden even tolerating dry shade once well established.  Brunnera offer a bold statement with their large heart-shaped leaves and wisps of airy blue (or white) forget-me-not flowers in early spring. 

The new varieties have stronger markings and new foliage colouring to offer a greater selection for any garden or container. 

Diane’s Gold’ has golden foliage that fades to chartreuse by summer and can even handle a little more sun if given plenty of moisture. 

Emerald Mist’ is an improved form of ‘Langtrees’ with its superior markings of antique silver over the emerald green leaves. 

King’s Ransom’ is a showstopper with silver leaves edged in creamy yellow.  There are several other selections as well, so do some hunting and have fun with these rewarding plants. 

Brunnera tend to stay as a bushy clump reaching 60cm high by 60 to 90cm wide and all are extremely hardy (Zone:  3-4).

Daphne Lawrence Crocker

Daphne x m. ‘Lawrence Crocker’

DAPHNE - Delightful as a rockery specimen this evergreen Daphne forms a tight low mound of narrow dark green leaves. 

Very fragrant deep lavender-pink flowers are produced from May and continue sporadically through fall.  Plants grow best in full sun and must have very well-drained soil. 

Height:  30cm  Spread:  60cm  Zone:  6


Daphne x houtteanaDaphne x houtteana

DAPHNE - A unique Daphne with foliage that emerges bright green maturing to a leathery, deep purple-black; semi-evergreen. 

Clusters of lightly scented flowers run up the stems like reddish-purple columns in spring.  Requires well-drained soil and does best in full sun. 

Height:  1.25m           Spread:  1.25m  Zone:  6



Disporum spp.Disporum Island Moon

FAIRY BELLS – Delicate architectural perennial with upright arching stems and creamy bell-like flowers in early spring. 

Disporum are easy to grow and do best in a shaded garden (or container) with rich, well-drained soil, they are vigorous yet not invasive and spread to form a loose clump. 

Some varieties are simply stunning ‘Island Moon’ is a most beautiful selection with broad oval leaves of bright yellow edged in dark green. 

Other must haves include:  ‘Golden Emperor’, ‘Golden Moon’, ‘Red Star’ and ‘Variegata’. 


Heucherella Brass LanternsHeucherella spp.

Compact, evergreen foliage plants well-suited for containers, Heucherella are vigorous and offer a colour range rivaling that of Heuchera. 

They do well in our cool, moist clime preferring partial shade and are resistant to powdery mildew and rust. 

Many superb varieties are available:  ‘Berry Fizz’, ‘Brass Lantern’, ‘Burnished Bronze’, ‘Solar Power’, ‘Solar Eclipse’ and ‘Sweet Tea’. 



Ligularia spp.

LEOPARD PLANT – Old World herbaceous perennials that revel in BC’s cool moist climate and bear tall spires or sprays of yellow to orange flowers in summer.  These bold foliage plants are an excellent addition to the garden as they sprout very early and continue to offer interest well into fall.  Some of the newer forms like ‘Dragon’s Breath’ and ‘Dragon Wings’ have dark stems accented by dark green heavily dissected leaves.  The Osiris series has bold foliage of red and dark purple often with heavily serrated edges. 

x Phylliopsis ‘Coppelia’

A relative of heather this choice broadleaf evergreen forms a tight upright mound of small dark green leaves which turn bronzy in winter.  Abundant lavender-pink bell-shaped flowers in April-May and again in fall, needs a well-drained acidic soil in full sun.  Height:  30cm  Spread:  30cm  Zone:  5

Polygonatum odoratum Dragons ScalePolygonatum spp.

SOLOMON'S SEAL – Hardy and easy to grow these perennials have tall arching stems that add a textural accent in a shady woodland setting or container. 

Many striking cultivars exist including ‘Dragon’s Scale’ a unique form having dark green leaves with prominent ridges in the center, giving reference to a dragon’s scale. 

Other forms include: ‘Grace Barker’, ‘Fireworks’, ‘Silver Streak’ and ‘White Tiger’.


These and many other similar plants are available at Art's Nursery. If you have any questions or would like more information abou them, please feel free to call or visit us in person.


Lyle Courtice Lyle Courtice, A.H.
 Lyle is a certified Horticultural Technician (Niagara College), Landscape Designer, Nurseryman and the proprietor of HarkAway Botanicals.
Since 1980 Lyle has worked in both the retail and wholesale sectors of the horticultural trade; he operates his own wholesale nursery, which focuses on an eclectic mix of rare and choice plant material from Asia, Europe and North America.
Lyle has appeared on The Canadian Gardener and is a contributing author to A Grower’s Choice (Raincoast books 2001).  His horticultural expertise makes him sought after as a consultant, lecturer, photographer, instructor and writer.  An industry veteran, Lyle is esteemed within the horticultural community for his passionate and often humorous enthusiasm for plants.
Author: Lyle Courtice Source: Harkaway Botanicals


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