WBUR meteorologist David Epstein has quite the green thumb. Below he discusses pansies, blooming bulbs and hellebores.
Spring is a great time of the year to put in annual flowering plants, and one of the favorites for those of us in New England are pansies.
You should plant pansies as early as possible, after April 1, but don't plan on them flowering until we get into the heat of summer. I find pansies do best with morning sunshine and afternoon shade and benefit from liquid fertilizer while they are growing.
Pansy flowers will last a few days and then start to curl and die. It's at this point that you should pinch them back, which will encourage new blooms. Run your finger down the stem of the flower to the base of the plant and break it off.
I like to mix pansies each year with a wide variety of colors but I'm mindful of not putting the same color pansy against a particular color background. So, if you have a white house, don't get white pansies.
Gardeners call pansies the flower with a face. They do look rather cheery in the garden. They're also edible, as are violas, the smaller flower cousin of pansies.
Spring bulbs are planted in the fall and flower in the spring. But garden centers also sell flowering bulbs around this time. Bulbs benefit from being fed a granular bulb food. I feed my bulbs after they're done flowering in the early part of the season.
You can also replant these bulbs somewhere else after they flower. Once the bulbs are done flowering, just plant them in an area where you want them to come up the following years. The leaves of bulbs use the solar radiation to bring energy back into the bulb for the next year, so it's important that you leave the foliage on the bulb until it has died back.
Already-flowering tulips bought in containers in the spring tend not to do well when planted in the garden, even if given plenty of food. You can try planting them, but keep your expectations low. But daffodils and hyacinths tend to flower well when they are planted from containers.
Hellebores are a wonderful perennial to add to any garden. They like morning sunshine and afternoon shade. While they are somewhat drought-tolerant, they will benefit from moist, well-drained soil with a good amount of nutrients. I give my hellebores a granular feeding each spring.
They come in a wide variety of colors, including single and double flower forms. After a couple of years you may notice your hellebores starting to spread as seeds grow new plants. Eventually you'll get thick clumps of hellebores, which will give you years of pleasure.
Hellebores are also deer resistant. I have found that voles and rabbits may sometimes eat the blossoms very early in the spring. If it's warm and nothing else has started to grow, the flower buds must be very tasty, but in general they tend to be pest-resistant.