Blooming into the Spring Season    

 By: Taylor Napolitan 

     Between Covid and the long winter we had this year, adding some color to your spring season will truly brighten up your day! The Squire interviewed high school science teacher, Mrs. Swanson, to find out her input on spring planting and gardening. When asked about her favorite thing to plant in her garden, Swanson stated, “I love to plant perennials which come up every year.  I have lilies and peonies, which are amazing.”  She has had four flowerbeds for more than 40 years. She also stated that she plants Geraniums and, “…bright flowers like Marigolds and Dahlias.” She also added that she likes to think of the plants she maintains as her children because she loves to take care of them and keep them safe while they grow.  

     When Mrs. Swanson was asked about her advice regarding when to start planting in gardens, she responded with, “I always tell people to wait until Memorial Day, but, with the change in climate, I plant around Mother’s Day.” Waiting until this day will help your plants thrive because of the annual warm, moist weather we receive in the end of May. Gardeners often state that you should wait to plant your flowers for your garden until the last frost of the year. This normally is between April 1st and April 15th, but this year things are a little colder, so it is best to wait. According to, spring is the best time to start gardening because, “Plants need water, light, warmth and soil or compost to grow…The showery weather gives them the water they need. The longer days mean they have more daylight and warmth from the sun, which raises the temperature of both air and soil.” I guess April showers really do bring May flowers! 

     When learning to plant, it is best to be patient. Your flowers will take time to bloom, and your tree sprouts will eventually bud. Mrs. Swanson, like many others, learned the art of gardening from her mom. She says, “She [her mother] was amazing, and I always feel that she is looking down from heaven and saying, ‘Everything looks good!’” Mrs. Swanson also has a few house plants that she takes care of that she received as gifts and said that, “They seem to be easy to keep…they are still alive.” The most common flowers to plant and what they thrive in environmentally, are provided by as follows:  

Early Spring plants: 

  • Harmony iris, also known as dwarf iris, bloom very early in the spring in beautiful shades of blue and purple. The very large blossoms have a wonderful fragrance like a violet and continue to come back year after year. 

Mid-Spring plants include: 

  • Tulips come in a wide range of colors and cultivars sure to suit any spring garden. 
  • Rhododendrons, like azaleas, are regarded as one of the best flowering evergreen plants for temperate landscapes. Rhododendrons are characterized by large, shiny, leathery evergreen leaves and clusters of large pink, white or purplish flowers that bloom from spring to early summer. The shrubs need to be watered if rainfall is less than one inch per week and they grow to a variety of sizes, from one or two feet to over 20 feet tall. 
  • Pansies are available in a wide range of colors, and are versatile flowers that can be grown in containers, in borders, or as ground cover. Pansies grow about six to nine inches tall and thrive in moist, well-draining soil. Seeds can be planted indoors six to eight weeks before transplanting outdoors. 

Late Spring Flowers include: 

  • Lily-of-the-valley flowers have delicate white flowers that produce a fragrant, sweet aroma synonymous with spring. Fresh clippings of the petite, bell shaped flowers are perfect for small, sweetly scented bedside bouquets. The plants thrive in partial shade and can be an aggressive ground cover.  
  • Lilac shrubs have fragrant purple blooms that appear in late May in most northern states. Depending on the variety, they grow from five to 15 feet tall. Plant lilac shrubs in areas where they will get at least six hours of sun per day, otherwise they will not bloom well.  
  • Peonies prefer full sun. There are many colors and cultivars to choose from, including peony trees. Peonies are drought resistant spring flowers, and they will do well in almost any soil if it drains well.  
  • Roses can be grown in any U.S. climate zone. Speak with a local nursery to find out which variety performs best in your climate. Then choose the type of rose bush best suited to your garden or flower bed site. Climbers and ramblers grow from seven to 30 feet in length and need some type of support. Hybrid teas have large, single blooms on long, stiff stems while floribundas have smaller clusters of blooms and each of them grow about two to three feet high. Roses come in thousands of varieties in multiple shades of red, pink, lavender, orange, yellow, white, and two-tone colors. 

     Shirley Wagner, Master Gardener Coordinator at Penn State, and Connie Schmotzer, of Consumer Horticulture, say to investigate the native perennial plants before planting. Plants that are native to the area are the plants that were here before the European settlers arrived. These plants have their positives because of their adaptations to our climate. Natives perennial should be planted in spring, early summer, and fall. Native plants are not always well known in our communities. It is best to have a general understanding of which plants are Native. Follow along with the following list of flowers and plants in their common names:  

  • Blue wild indigo 
  • Joe-eye weed 
  • Swamp sunflower  
  • Showy goldenrod 
  • Black eye Susan 
  • Golden ragwort  
  • Foam flower 
  • New York ironweed 
  • Butterfly weed 

     The experts advise testing your soil before planting and, if needed, amend the nutrients according to the soil testing results. Their directions for planting these perennials are to start by, “placing the plant in a hole at the same depth as when it was in the container is important. If the plant is root-bound, make sure you free the root system by gently pulling it apart. Once the backfill soil is added, water the plant thoroughly. Additional water may be needed during the growing season until plants are well established.” They also recommend that if the plant is in the proper environment then they will need little or no additional water once they are planted. Springtime is the right time to start your summer off with lots of color. So, grab your seeds, buds, and saplings, and get to planting! 

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