Warm weather brings more signs of spring

Rob Zimmer, Leader Columnist

Photo by Rob Zimmer Among the first garden blooms in April are the tiny, rock garden or bulbous irises, in many shades of blue, white, purple and yellow.

Photo by Rob Zimmer Crocuses are an excellent choice for a quick burst of early color in the yard and garden. They can be naturalized right into lawn areas or used in garden beds and borders.

With the warmth of April come the first colorful blooms of the season. Our recent warm spell has coaxed many springtime favorites into bloom, colorful spring gems that brighten our winter weary landscapes.

Chances are, you’ve already seen the first colorful crocuses burst into spring glory. These low-growing bulbs are often among the first flowers to bloom each year. In shades of blue, purple, white and yellow, crocuses are an excellent choice for naturalizing into the yard or displaying in garden beds. These are fall planted bulbs that bloom the following spring.

Another early bloomer is Siberian squill, the tiny, cobalt blue flower you see in masses at times as a decorative lawn cover soon after snow melt. While these colorful blooms add a breathtaking beauty to the April landscape, many gardening groups are warning against planting them, as these tiny beauties can be quite aggressive and spread fast into native habitats.

Dwarf or rock garden irises are also beginning to bloom. Different from traditional bearded iris, these tiny beauties come in bulb form and bloom on short stems that may reach only 3 to 6 inches in height.

Dwarf irises are often quite dramatic in color and pattern. There are varieties available in white, sky blue, dark blue, purple, lavender, yellow and more.

Early blooming perennials in the garden include the spectacular hellebores. Often called Lenten Rose, hellebores may bloom as early as March, their rigid, thick leaves remaining evergreen throughout the winter season.

Hellebores are an excellent choice for gardeners with deer problems. Deer leave these plants alone because of their heavy, sometimes spiny foliage. Dozens of varieties are available, often in beautiful shades of pink, white, cream, yellow, green, purple and metallic blue.

Hepaticas, native to our area, also bloom now in April. Sometimes called liver leaf, these beautiful wildflowers grow 6 to 8 inches tall and bloom in many shades of blue, purple, lavender, pink and white.

Another native found right here in our area, marsh marigold will begin to bloom in the next week or so. Also called cowslip, these wetland wildflowers love it moist, filling our swamps and ditches with an explosive burst of bright golden yellow.

Pasqueflowers, sometimes called windflowers, bloom in silvery, pale blue in dry, sandy areas and prairie gardens.

There are many early blooming, flowering shrubs as well, putting on their best display in April.

Forsythias are just beginning to blossom in masses of bright, lemon yellow blooms. Forsythias bloom before their leaves appear, the stems lined with rows and rows of beautiful golden color.

Serviceberries bloom in April and early May, their lacy, white flowers decorating the tree a elegant spring display. Also called Juneberry, these plants feature abundant berries that begin to appear in early summer. Serviceberries come in both tree form and shrub form and make an excellent choice for those landscaping with wildlife in mind.

The first magnolias, especially star magnolia, also begin to bloom in April, their massive, exotic blooms providing an explosive floral display as the yard and garden begins to waken for the new growing season.