By Beau Spicer


March! What a month of unpredictability. The heavy coat of winter has slowly started to lift and every time we think Mother Nature has awoken, we blink and we’re right back in the trenches of winter. For every day of warmth and hope, comes two days of cold with a light dusting.
March is the gardener’s Limbo. To plant or not to plant? The answer is simple: get creative and extend the gardening season.

Using the appropriate early blooming annuals, perennials, and shrubs can make March a bright start to the gardening season.

The perennial Helleborus, commonly called Lenten Rose, features dull grey foliage that causes it to be frequently overlooked among gardeners. However, it has blooms in early spring. In some varieties, the blooms can be located near the base of the plant, causing them to be overshadowed by the plant’s foliage. Other varieties, such as Helleborus “Ivory Prince”, have upright blooms at the top of the foliage, featuring petals of white with purple veining. It’s an amazing plant that’s strong enough to take even the coldest days. In fact, this perennial can be seen blooming for much of the winter season.
March is the month that Annuals start to come alive. While it may not be the variety of life you see in May, I say who needs variety when you’ve got creativity? Consider pansies: Viola tricolor var. hortensis, or as I affectionately call them, The Little Annual That Could. I don’t know if I have ever met a gardener that didn’t like pansies. They can be planted in the fall for a splash of late season color and with a little effort, make it through the spring right into summer.
Don’t confine yourself to just annuals and perennials. Early blooming shrubs are no slackers this time of year. In a time when nothing else wants to bloom, having a vibrant stand-alone shrub can be a bright spot on a cold day. Take Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana). During the early season, it’s a show stopper! There are many different varieties, some growing low in habit while others reach upwards of 12 feet. New varieties like “Diane” offer brilliant red bloom clusters, which gives a vibrant start to the spring season. This shrub can also be easily trained for tight spaces or left alone for a unique look.
We can’t change what Mother Nature gives us during March; as a gardener, you can dread the cold or flourish in the warmth. It doesn’t take much to make a gardener happy! For us, it’s the little things, like a petal peeking through the snow or just a little dirt between our hands. So make your March just as happy as your April or May. Be it annuals, perennials, or shrubs, get creative with early blooming plants. As l love to say, the best antidote for winter is a little early season color!