The shady most side of the yard is an ideal place for early spring flowers. In February we begin to see life arriving and hope plants are not too cold. One of my more aggressive ones is the Virginia Blue
Bells (Mertensia virginica). They will grow in light to dense shade and spread easily. Some years ago I started with three plants. Now there are many under the big Cottonwood. They have pink buds before the flowers open. About 18 inches tall they make a blue drift wandering north. They die back soon after blooming so there is room for another summer bloomer. Some even bloom under the lounge chairs that were left out in the winter.

          Also in the shade the dainty Shooting Stars come up about 8 to 12 inches tall. Mine are a pale pink and occasionally I find a new one close by.  They like water or droop badly. The single stock of “stars” rise up above the low plant base. The petals bend backwards from a sharp nose. They are not large enough to be seen unless they have a clear area away from taller plants. They do not last a long time and disappear like the Blue Bells.

          Lily Of The Valley (Convallaria mojali’s) are small (to 12 inches) with dainty white blooms. Their bells are waxy looking white and fragrant. If they are happy they tend to spread rather rapidly like other spring bloomers it tends to disappear when hot days arrive but next spring the clump will be bigger. I see a pink one advertised in catalogs but mine are all white with a neat odor.

          Blood Root (Sanguinaria) is one of my favorite earlies. It is named like it is because if you break a root it will bleed “red”. It spreads very slowly into low clumps.  Books say it is hardy to zone 3 so it has not trouble in Nebraska. It may show up in March after a mild winter. Each bloom is curled up in a leaf before they open. Usually 6 to 8 inches tall the white waxy flowers cover the entire clump. A cool spring and they last a little longer before disappearing.  I like them near a pathway as they are so close to the ground.

          Jack-in-the-Pulpit comes a little later. I have many under shrubs and trees, When “Jack” turns red in the fall I strip off the red beads and toss          them into a shady place.  They form bulbs big enough to produce “Jacks” in a year or so with shade and water. Writers caution that you must not  dig the bulbs and let them dry out.  My original ones came in slightly damp  peat moss to be planted immediately. What fun  to see Jack come up under his leaf and his pulpit curling over his head.

          Johnny Jump Ups can fill in any small places in the sun.  They are easy to start from seed or get new plants that will reseed for you.  To me they are tiny Pansies that survive a hot  summer.  Most are only about 12 inches tall but occasionally I have some 18 inches. (Viola tricolor)

          Pansies are one of the first blooms to appear in garden centers and nurseries and are a welcome  sign of spring. I have some large pots to fill up and since Pansies can not take heat, as  summer comes I re place them with seeds of Rainbow Colored Chard. They come up at once and g row fast.  Sometimes they get 3 feet tall.  It does not mind your taking leaves for food as the slumps are large and healthy. They are huge, striped, and many colors so makes a background for shorter, less dramatic plants.

          One of the earlies shrubs to bloom is the Korean Spice Viburnum (Viburnum carlini). You can small it before you see it in the garden. The blooms start out pink and age to white. It likes part shade. Catalogues say it will grow to 6 feet high but mine has never been over 4 to 4 1/ 2 feet tall. I have dad people come to the door to ask what they smell from the sidewalk.  The leaves turn  red in the  fall.

          There are numerous varieties of Snow Drops (Galanthus sp.) ranging from 2 inches up to 5 inches tall. They need to be near the edges of you paths or you might miss them.  Bulbs are planted in the fall in loose, humus filled soil.  Sometimes they will come up in the snow.  Some people are allergic to the bulbs.  Eating them  will cause a stomach upset.  Each bulb has a single dainty white bloom. They can grow in partial  shade.

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