• Earliest Spring bloomers to plant now

    by  • February 1, 2017 • Garden

    Winter and early spring blooming plants

    Brighten these grey, rainy days in the foothills with cool-season bloomers in containers and areas close to your home where they can easily be seen.  Annuals can provide quick color and perennials and shrubs will reward you year after year with reliable and surprising blooms, should you forget they are there.  Now is also the time to shop for colorful Rhododendrons, Azaleas and fruit trees.

    After, all blooming and picture perfect

    Planting these winter and early spring bloomers near your home is important so they can be seen from inside easily.  They’ll cheer you up to see them through the rainy and snowy days.

    The annuals below are deer resistant and perfectly hardy for our cold nights and sometimes sunny days. The closer you plant these to your home the less chance deer will have to find them, should you have frequent visits from these flower munchers.


    Calendula officinalis, is basically a hardy 'winter' marigold

    Calendula officinalis, is basically a hardy ‘winter’ marigold

    Calendulas with their large yellow-gold flowers and paludosum daisies with tiny, white ones are fresh and bright, especially planted together in drifts or larger sections of a flower bed.


    Burgundy Stock

    Burgundy Stock can be found in economical six paks

    Sweet-smelling stock is often overlooked as being mundane and ordinary but I assure you, it’s neither.  With a scent that will remind you of carnations, stock is best when planted near a front entryway where guests might brush past and release its spicy fragrance. Stock comes in soft pastel colors of pink, white, pale yellow and lavender.

    Snapdragons in January

    Snapdragons in January

    Snapdragons, English Primrose, pansies and violas love the cold and are the mainstays in my winter and early spring garden since they act as perennials appearing year after year. Pansies and violas, bloom right through the snow and will self-seed so watch for their tiny seedlings and learn to recognize them.  Plant volunteers are always welcome in my garden. Merely cut pansies back after bloom and they will become perennial in your garden. In fall,  primrose will die completely back to the ground but pop back up as early as the earliest daffodils.

    Ornamental Cabbages and violas can be planted as soon as the night time temps go below 50º

    Colorfully pastel Iceland poppies and nemesia are less deer resistant and if protected, will add an airy look that disguises how hardy they actually are in your garden. Grow ornamental kale for its stunning shape and ruffly hot pink and grey-green leaves. It’s very worthwhile trying if you can protect it from deer and yes, it is edible so you can eat it yourself in salads.


    Bergenia bed blooming in February

    Bergenia bed blooming in February in my garden. Deer resistant!

    One perennial that blooms the earliest in our foothills is Bergenia, commonly called pig-squeak, possibly because of the sound of the leaves when one walks on them.  Little known, but fantastically deer resistant I’ve found, is this winter bloomer, with its large round leather-like leaves and clusters of pink flowers. In early March, I’m always surprised to see bergenia flowers blooming on 8-10 inch tall stalks, right through the snow!

    The lovely and surprising Bergenia

    The lovely and surprising Bergenia


    Rhododendron ponticum catawbiense 'Anah Kruschke

    Rhododendron ponticum catawbiense ‘Anah Kruschke

    Shrubs like rhododendron, azaleas and fruit trees should be sought out this month to see what colors you like.  Deer don’t particularly like rhododendrons and azaleas and pass them right by in many local foothill gardens. Azalea ‘PJM’ is a popular hot lavender pink variety blooming now.  Blooming around Oakhurst this month are ornamental plum trees with their white blooms and striking dark purple shadowing. These plums will have dark purple leaves later in spring. Ornamental pears grow tall and bloom early with blossoms that rain down and cover the ground with white.


    Azalea Rhododendron PJM, one of the most popular deer resistant azaleas

    Azalea Rhododendron PJM, one of the most popular deer resistant azaleas


    Manzanita 'Howard McMinn'

    Manzanita ‘Howard McMinn’

    Hardy California natives blooming now are manzanitas and snowberries,…watch for these in well-stocked nurseries. One long blooming manzanita to watch for is Manzanita ‘Howard McMinn,’ perfect for the worst clay soil. Snowberries resemble small blackberry plants with pearly white berries growing on bare branches until they leaf out later in Spring.

    Pear tree in bloom

    Pear tree in bloom

    Flowering trees like Crabapple, Ornamental pear, cherry, apple and peach add a tall flowering layer to your garden.  Choose these now in bareroot or in five gallon pots. Stake slender trees for wind protection and mulch around the drip line.  You can protect newly planted trees from cold frosty weather by watering them well each time before the temperature dips.

    Weeping 'Candied Apple' Crabapple Malus'Weepcanzam'

    Weeping ‘Candied Apple’ Crabapple Malus’Weepcanzam’

    Planting these hardy annuals, perennials, shrubs and flowering trees will give you the early, early blooms that will delight you throughout our foothill winter doldrums.


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.