Signs of spring popping up all around us

First published on Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Aw, spring. Just when I’ve had all the brown I can take, you arrive. You bring warm days and cool nights. You tease me with sunshine and make me begin to search garden beds and bushes for things that go pop.

Every gardener knows that moment — when finally, you see a little green stem popping through the soil of the brown winter bed. Oh, how you watch those stems daily and marvel at how quickly they grow.

Maybe it’s the snowdrop bulbs you planted in the fall, growing their low green foliage and then producing delicate white bell-shaped flowers. Maybe it’s the yellow and purple crocus flowers that brighten your day.

For me, the first sign of spring is my neighbor’s hellebore. The plant is neglected all winter, yet it blooms early every year. The soft, muted purplish blooms always tell me to have patience, because spring is coming.

As I drive to work each day I pass several spots with forsythia bushes, each filled with cheerful yellow flowers that brighten my travels. This hedge-like shrub needs a good bit of sun each day and will grow tall, but should be pruned regularly after its blooming season.

With the warmer temperatures, my front shrubs are beginning to pop. Slowly, the winter stems are showing signs of green. This seems to take forever, then, one morning after a rain shower, I look out, and boom — the bushes are green.

For color that pops, I mentioned the snowdrops, the crocuses and the blooming bushes, but there is so much more.

Daffodils, tiny grape hyacinths with their bluish-purple flower. Pansies, with their familiar petals, come in a variety of colors, and creeping phlox begins to bloom in white, pink and purple. All of these make me smile as I begin to see the colors of the changing seasons.

Tulips! My favorite. As I type, there is vase of tulips on my desk. I love tulips, but so do the deer. They love to eat the young flowers and the squirrels love to dig up the bulbs. Growing my favorites is a challenge. I spray, use netting and beg.

I grew beautiful tulips once upon a time. That was before a family of deer decided to adopt the area under my backyard trees as their home. Generations of deer have lived (and dined) here over the years, and soon there will be a new generation of fawns — another thing popping out!

Forgive me, I got sidetracked. Back to tulips. To enjoy the beauty in the spring, you must do the work in the fall. That is the time to plant bulbs for spring pop.

Yes, some years I have planted hundreds of bulbs. My daffodils, irises and crocuses have survived. Now, it’s a rare tulip that lasts more than a day in the yard. But I do have success with alliums, this spiky sphere bloom is from the onion family and not appetizing to deer.

It’s not all about bulbs and bushes. Now is also time to plant lettuce, spinach, onions and radishes. I try to stagger the planting of my lettuce seeds every 10 days. I like to have tender leaves popping up throughout the growing season.

My chives are up and, because of the warm weather, ready to be trimmed. My chives, a gift from a friend, are planted in pots and come back and thrive year after year. If space is a concern, lettuce and herbs can be planted in pots. We’ll talk more about herbs another time, but know even the tiniest balcony can have fresh greens.

So when I think of spring, I think of things that go pop. Spring flowers, bushes, early garden edibles, even Easter bonnets, all in soft pastel colors.

Plant your colors strategically so they will brighten your day. Maybe it’s outside your favorite window or lining a path to the mailbox. Plant them in the ground and in several pots grouped together.

Think about the ways you want your garden to pop, and get busy and enjoy the colors of spring.

Jane Powell is a longtime West Virginia Extension Service Master Gardener through the Kanawha County chapter and has a garden with sunny spots and shady beds where she grows perennials, vegetables and herbs. She is also the communications director for a community foundation and a volunteer with several nonprofits in the community. Reach Jane at