As we move into March the pace of activity in the garden accelerates and the number of interesting plants that could keep our gardens from being boring increases. With the mild winter we seem to be about two weeks ahead of schedule, so there are lots of opportunities for adding interest to the garden. Here are some standouts for a “typical” March.
Bulbs: March and daffodils are like peanut butter and jelly, you can’t have one without the other. Many of my smaller daffodils are already blooming and while they don’t have the stature of King Alfred, they bring me just as much delight. Look for these shrimps this coming fall, plant them and forget them. They are as reliable as taxes, only a whole lot more pleasurable. If yellows aren’t your cup of tea, let me suggest Scillas, commonly known as blue bells. My wife has an insatiable fetish for blue flowering plants and because of her English heritage, bluebells are her comfort food in the garden. On the other hand, they are my nemesis since they spread like wild fire. I am forever pulling them out of our beds, mostly when my sweet wife is off with her quilting group.
Perennials: Candytuft is the first plant to come to mind. This low growing perennial has glossy, evergreen, dark green foliage and pure-white flowers for the entire month. Drifts of candytuft can be seen from several blocks away. Arabis and Aubretia are two other low growing, early blooming perennials (along with creeping phlox) that you will often find growing together in rockeries and low borders. Hellebores are still stunning and Bergenia will be shooting up bright pink flowers this month. Pasque Flower is a delightful hairy little guy, with mostly purple flowers, that lives for a very long time. Another underused perennial, with blue or pink flowers, is Pulmonaria or Lungwort. Its spotted leaves will brighten up any dark shady spot in the garden and it is slug proof.
Shrubs: Forsythia is in full stride, with its bright gold flowers, officially announcing the beginning of spring. Look for “Magical Gold”. It has immense flowers and only grows to 5 feet tall. “Showoff Starlet” is even shorter at only 2 to 3 feet tall. Red flowering currants will also delight our gardens with their dark pink drupes while simultaneously luring every hummingbird from far and wide into the yard (plus they are native). Pieris is a bullet-proof evergreen shrub with variegated foliage and white bell-like flowers, that can also be found in pink or red. There are several new varieties out but “Tiki” is my newest favorite. Pieris are great for bringing in early pollinators too. Several varieties of rhodies bloom this month. “PJM Elite Star” is a real stunner with its small dark foliage, bluish purple flowers and it only gets 3 feet tall.
Trees: The classic March flowering tree in our area is the purple-leafed Thundercloud Plum. There are also some early blooming flowering cherries and pears that are quite nice as well. Don’t forget the Cornelian Cherry with its delicate yellow blooms that stay in color for almost two months. March is also the month to enjoy Magnolias or as they are sometimes called, tulip trees. Look for “Centennial Blush” star magnolia, a delightfully smallish tree (only about 12 to 14 feet tall) with pink buds that open to incredibly full and wonderfully fragrant pale pink flowers in spring.