All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A
by Pernell Gerver

Bookmark this page or add it to your favorites now!
(Reload or refresh each time you visit to get the current week's columns.)

 Tell a friend about Pernell Gerver's Official Web Site 

"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

"Neem Oil Controls Insects, Diseases, and Mites"

Q. You've helped me in the past and I need your help again - every year I have a big problem with bugs on my flowers and some of them also get covered with a white substance. It makes the plants look bad so I was wondering if there is anything I can do now to prevent these problems. Thank you in advance for any recommendations you have.

A. . I'm glad you submitted your question now, at the beginning of the season, so I can help you practice preventative medicine so you won't have problems later on, although my recommendation would get rid of the problems at any time.

At this time of year I begin a regular preventative-spraying program. I use a special formulation of Neem Oil and what I like about it is you don't have to know what the problem is, since Neem Oil probably controls it. The Neem Oil I use is an organic, three-in-one treatment that works on everything - all sorts of insects, diseases, and mites.

Made from the seeds of the Neem tree that grows in India, this amazing all-natural spray is an insecticide, fungicide, and miticide all in one. It can be used on all plants including roses, perennials, annuals, trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and house plants. It controls all stages of insects (adult, larvae, and egg). It acts as a growth regulator, antifeedant, repellent, and conta