All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A
by Pernell Gerver

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"The Best Spring-Blooming Perennials for Shade"

Spring-blooming perennials provide some of the earliest color in the flower garden. Many bloom alongside the spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils and early tulips and are wonderful companions. Spring-blooming perennials return year after year in the garden. This week the focus is on spring-blooming perennials for shade. Click on a plant name to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Christmas rose and Lenten rose are two of the earliest-blooming perennials in my garden.

Christmas rose can be in bloom as early as Christmas, especially in winters when there is little snow cover. In my garden, it blooms reliably by Valentine's Day every year. It bears up to a dozen single, white, four-inch-wide, rounded flowers that stand about a foot high. It has handsome, evergreen foliage that forms a foot high and wide mound.

Lenten rose begins blooming in mid March and continues blooming for up to four months. I've had Lenten rose bloom from March to July in my garden. It bears flowers in shades of purple, plum, and rose, many with spotted or speckled flower petals. Lenten rose has evergreen foliage that grows about a foot and a half tall and mature clumps can reach three feet across for a stunning early-spring display.

Pink Fringed bleeding heart is a spring-blooming perennial that begins blooming very early in the season. I've seen it in bloom in my garden as early as late March. It has medium-green, finely-divided foliage that forms a handsome clump. Large, bleeding-heart-shaped flowers are held in clusters on stems that stand above the foliage. Unlike the common bleeding heart that goes dormant after blooming leaving a hole in the garden, fringed bleeding heart blooms from early spring to frost, making it one of the longest-blooming perennials in the garden.

White fringed bleeding heartIn addition to pink, there is also a white fringed bleeding heart. It has the same attractive foliage with white bleeding-heart-shaped flowers that stand above the foliage. It too blooms from very early spring right to frost.

Epimedium rubrum has compact, green foliage. Ten- to twelve-inch-tall-flower stems of red flowers rise through the foliage in late April to early May. The nodding flowers have an interesting spider shape. It thrives in dry shade and spreads to form a nice groundcover.


Pulmonaria 'Pierre's Pure Pink'Pulmonaria 'Pierre's Pure Pink' is an attractive, early-spring-blooming perennial with striking foliage and flowers. Green leaves are heavily speckled with irregular silver spots. Clusters of pure-salmon-pink flowers bloom in early spring. It forms an attractive mound of foliage and flowers and thrives in shady spots in the garden.

Columbine 'Nora Barlow' is a unique form of columbine. Spurless, fully-double flowers are held atop three foot tall stems in shades of pink and mauve. It's a long-blooming perennial, in bloom from May to July.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"It's Time to Start Fertilizing"

Q. I have a question regarding fertilizing. I would like to know when to start fertilizing my garden and how often I should do it. Also, can you recommend any special type of fertilizer like the liquid ones or granular types? Thanks for your advice.

A. As far as the type of fertilizer to use - liquid or granular - I prefer to use granular. Liquid or water-soluble fertilizers are not long lasting and sometimes you will need to fertilize but not water the plant like when we get a lot of rain and you could end up overwatering the plant. A granular fertilizer is applied to the soil and is there all the time.

My favorite granular fertilizer is called Electra. I use it all over my garden on all of my flowers, trees, shrubs, vegetables, fruits, containers, and everything else. I also use it indoors on my house plants. Electra is an organic, slow-release plant food that does not burn. I've tried other fertilizers and I've found this one produces the best results. The plants are very healthy, strong, and produce more blooms.

The time to begin fertilizing is right now. Electra is a gray powder that you sprinkle on the ground around the plant and water it in. I do a light dusting of it on the surface of the soil.

Three weeks later I'll use Electra Bloom Food and apply it the same way as regular Electra. I recommend alternating between regular Electra and Electra Bloom Food every three weeks throughout the season. Doing this really encourages blooms, and lots of them, too. I use both formulas on all plants in my garden, indoors and out.

For fertilizing bulbs I use