Each year, as the cold days of winter gradually start to turn warmer and greener, gorgeous pops of color begin to emerge in gardens across Chapel Hill. The spring flowers have finally arrived! 

One of the earliest-blooming flowers is the hellebore, also known as the Lenten rose. Typically blooming from February through May, hellebores are extremely low maintenance, deer-resistant, and grow best in shaded areas. Plant in the fall (be sure not to plant too deep), and once established, these exquisite, self-sowing perennials will continue to spread and bloom for many years.

Tulips are perennials, but they have a tendency to bloom with less vigor (and sometimes not all) after the first year. For the most show-stopping blooms each spring, treat tulips as annuals, and replace older bulbs with new bulbs each season. As with most bulbs, plant tulips in the fall. Dig a trench about eight inches deep in a well-draining, sunny location, and cluster them together in groups of 20 (or more) for optimal visual impact when blooming.

Although the single tulip varieties are the most common, be sure to also plant double varieties, which look more like garden roses or peonies than a classic tulip. Copper Image, Double Price, and Black Hero are all stunning double varieties.

After the tulips and daffodils start to fade, peonies come on strong. Blooms start in mid-April, hit their stride in May, and then finish up in June. In North Carolina’s hot and humid weather, Festiva Maxima and Sarah Bernhardt seem to do especially well. Be sure to plant peonies in the fall, so that the roots really have time to establish themselves before spring.

To maintain the health of the peony plant, deadhead regularly during the blooming season and remove any leaves infected with botrytis. For optimal growth the next season, cut peony plants down to ground after the first hard frost in the fall.

Garden roses also start to bloom in early May. There are just too many varieties to mention here, but Earth Angel is an exceptionally fragrant, disease-free heirloom garden rose.

And we can’t forget about the annuals! Poppies, ranunculus,and anemones are all early-blooming, gorgeous spring annuals, and make lovely cut flowers. In North Carolina, these beauties can be difficult to grow without a greenhouse or unheated hoop house, so visit a farmer’s market (or contact one of Orange county’s flower farmers directly) to buy a bouquet of these stunning blooms!