Garden Photo of the Day

First Flowers of Spring

The first blooms of the year are always the best!

Arthur B. in Raleigh, N.C., sent us some pictures of the arrival of spring in his part of the world. These first flowers of the new season are so precious. Are you seeing spring flowers in your yard? If so, send us some photos for a chance to be featured in the Garden Photo of the Day, or tag us on Instagram and Facebook. We’d love to see how you’re celebrating spring in your yard!

Witch hazel (Hamamelis sp., Zones 5–9) are the epitome of early flowering. The flowers unfurl their delicate, golden, threadlike petals on the first warmish days of the year, and curl back up tight when it turns cold again, so they can sail through whatever unpredictable weather spring brings. (What, spring, with unpredictable weather? You are SHOCKED to hear it, I know.)

Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima, Zones 4–8) is another shrub that flowers super early in the spring or even in late winter. The small white flowers aren’t the showiest in the world, but they smell so good, and that scent is just what we need after all the snow.

If you aren’t growing hellebores (Helleborus orientalis, Zones 4–8), you really need to rethink your life choices. Hellebores thrive in shade, tolerate drought, are deer resistant, and bloom incredibly early in the spring. They come in an ever widening range of colors and forms, and this lightly spotted pink is a lovely one.

As the weather continues to warm, on come the tulips (Tulipa, Zones 3–8) and violas (Viola × wittrockiana, Zones 6–10 or annual). Violas are essentially small-flowered versions of pansies and are generally much tougher and produce more flowers. In Zone 6 and south, they are best planted in the fall, where they will overwinter and greet the spring with incredible masses of blooms that are not only beautiful but often fragrant and even edible!


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View Comments


  1. mjensen 04/03/2018

    i love panseys

  2. NCYarden 04/03/2018

    Good morning, Arthur. Pleasantly surprised to see a fellow gardener here in my hometown. Great photos of the plants that mark our transition from Winter to Spring. That witch hazel is amazing. I need to replace mine which I lost several years ago. We should visit each other's gardens some time. Thanks for sharing.

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 04/03/2018

    Such lovely photos, Arthur. Your inclusion of winter honeysuckle sent me off on a google search and read... since I wasn't familiar with it. One site said its nickname was "sweet breath of spring" which must be because of the delightful fragrance you described.

    I'm going to add an extra comment about the sun tolerance of some hellebores. I once had a very large weeping willow under which a good sized colony of hellebores grew, multiplied and thrived. Several years ago, we had to have the willow taken down because of the frequent dropping of large branches...old age was taking its toll ( ha, on the willow...not me...yet). Anyway, I moved a few of the hellebores to a shadier place but left the rest to fate. Much to my surprise, they didn't shrivel up and die from being in full sun. I also have an ever increasing patch of variegated Solomon's seal surviving in this area as well. I water pretty generously in the summer because they are now getting so much sun. Anyway, just thought I'd mention that you might not need real shade to have hellebores in your garden.

    1. NCYarden 04/03/2018

      Hi Michaele, I must confirm your discovery. I have a few Hellebores that do quite well in the sun, in fact I suspect do even better than some of the others I have in the woodland. I realize there could be other factors - soil, moisture etc. but it has given me the courage to spread them around.

  4. User avater
    treasuresmom 04/03/2018

    I am so jealous of that witch hazel. I have one here in zone 8b but it has never thrived. We moved it when it was just a year old trying to make it happy but no way. Everything is so lovely.

  5. cheryl_c 04/03/2018

    Arthur, your photos are lovely - and such a nice treat on our third day of heavy overcast, and Easter freezing rain. We're in the 60's now, but due to go to the 20's tonight. Our star magnolia did have a nice stretch of non-freezing temperatures, and now our tulip magnolia (Jane) is in full bloom - along with the bleeding heart "Goldheart". But no columbine yet! Go figure! We have also had good luck with Hellebores in full sun, even here in zone 6 with humid summers.

  6. Chris_N 04/03/2018

    So nice to see blooming plants. It gives me hope. Witch hazel, snow drops and crocuses are blooming now in Madison, WI. The crocuses weren't fond of the 16° low we had the other night. It's raining now but we are predicted to get 5 inches of snow. Not your typical spring.

  7. btucker9675 04/03/2018

    Thanks for these lovely photos, Arthur! Good to see that, if I persist here in Charlotte, I will be able to have a beautiful garden again. Is the "soil" in Raleigh solid clay like it is here in the Charlotte area? Hate this stuff!

  8. Musette1 04/03/2018

    omgosh - that witch hazel is gorgeous! I'm hoping to be moving soon and, with any luck, wherever that move takes me will allow for a witch hazel!

    Thanks for sharing your lovely garden!

  9. user-7003263 04/03/2018

    Arthur B., in Raleigh North Carolina your pictures are so beautiful and I am so glad that GPOD posted them. From experience, Hellebores can handle shade, part shade, and sun (zone 8, Georgia). Although I buy violas each fall, and your yellow ones are so pretty and bright, I no longer waste money on tulips (return vs cost is prohibitive). Looking to 2 to 3 witch hazels to my garden via on-line retail sources as I cannot find them in my local nursery. What I missed in your beautiful sharing of plants in your garden was your voice describing them. The FG editors do a great job describing each photo, but their descriptions lack the passion of the individual who grew and spent numerous hours caring for and loving the plants they (you) are sharing.

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