With the warmth that the spring sun brings, the first blooms of the season suddenly appear. Here, in the ornamental gardens of Ottawa’s Dominion Arboretum, a languorous path is bordered by swaths of Siberian squill (Scilla siberica), one of nearly fifty species within the genus Scilla, a member of the Hyacinthaceae family.
If memory serves me correctly, this whole area is also planted with a mass of hostas. This is a great planting tip for novices; overplant your bulbs with perennials that will camoflage the bulb foliage as it begins to die down.
Pretty soon other spring flowering perennials will strut their stuff; these azure blue and pink blossoms belong to the shade loving lungworts (Pulmonaria sp; garden varieties are many including P. officinalis, P. rubra, P. saccharata, P. longifolia). These plants, with their spotted and bristly foliage are reliable performers in locations that stay shady and cool through the season. When their flowers finish and their leaves become tatty by mid-summer, they can be cut right back and new, fresh leaves will emerge and look much more presentable through the rest of the growing season.
The flowerbuds of lungwort present as pink and as they begin to open, shift to blue/purple, creating a doubly colourful display.
There is also a white variety called Pulmonaria x saccharata ‘Sissinghurst White’, that although it is less vigorous than the pink/blue types, makes for a classically elegant display.
A very useful edging perennial is Arabis alpina or Rockcress. This mat-forming plant has fuzzy silver foliage and benefits from being placed in full sun with soil that is not too rich. It provides a bright highlight in the spring garden.
And then there are the beautiful magnolias! One of the largest hardy magnolias is the Saucer variety (Magnolia soulangiana), pictured here, with it’s huge and showy blooms. One of the reasons Magnolias are so stunning in bloom is the size of the flowers, the delicate blush of pink on white, the grey branches and the muscular, organic shape of their limbs.