April- What's in Lisa's Garden?


Lisa Colburn


In My Garden (Zone 3-4)

Lisa Colburn
Lisa Colburn is a crazy gardener, great cook and author of The Maine Garden Journal.


Sweet April Showers/Do spring May Flowers

-Traditional English Verse

I remember learning the little verse “April showers bring May flowers” when I was in grade school in northern Maine… Only, where I grew up, we still had snowstorms in April.  

Nevertheless, when snow starts to melt, it seems that plants in short-season, cold-climate areas have all this pent-up energy. After just a few warm days plants of all kinds start to burst into bloom.

Star magnolia can grow in a protected microclimate in Zone 4 – sheltered from wind and winter sun. Still some years, late frosts can damage the flower buds. It’s worth taking a risk and pushing the limits a bit so that occasionally I am rewarded with blooms

Crocuses are long-lived, dependable bloomers. They slowly multiply to spread their joy throughout the flowerbeds. By mid-summer, the leaves die back and disappear. If I mistakenly dig up the small bulbs during the summer growing season, I store them in an open cardboard box in my garden shed. I want them to remain dry. They’re replanted with additional bulbs in late fall. I’ve been trying to encourage these special crocuses called 'Zwanenburg'. I love the gold petals with red streaks.

No garden in cold climates can do without Siberian squill. Its true blue, nodding, bell-like flowers blend well with other spring bulbs. Clumps spread slowly and naturalize in the garden. Allow the swollen seed heads to remain if you want volunteers. Like other spring bulbs, the foliage dies down during the summer.

I can’t say enough about Corydalis ‘Beth Evans’. When I see it emerging from dormancy, I am blown away by the sheer number of intense pink, showy flowers on such a small plant! I believe the numerous blooms are a bid to attract pollinators. Within weeks, the show is over and the leaves start to die back. Corydalis will remain dormant until next spring. I wish I could find other plants for my garden that had flowers with the same shade of intense pink. My Corydalis ‘Beth Evans’ is tucked behind a boulder in front of my home, largely unnoticed to the casual observer. If I’m outside when people walk by, I make sure and bring them around to see this amazing plant. Gardener or not, they have to appreciate the boldness of this harbinger of spring.




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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • New gardeners can’t go wrong with annual flowers. Planted in average soil and deeply watered once a week, annuals will provide a summer’s worth of wonderful blooms. Started from seed or set out as transplants, these winners will really perform if a few inches of compost are worked into the soil before planting.

    Try wax-leaf begonia in partial shade. Cleome is perfect for the background where it gets full sun. Impatiens is wonderful in the shade. Lantana loves hot weather with flowers from yellow to orange to lavender. Torenia, or wishbone flower, is a relatively new ""toughie."" It grows best in partial shade loves heat. Zinnias are tough sun lovers that really put on a show in a variety of colors.