Fiddleheads, Ferns, Bluebells, and Bleeding Hearts
A classic spring combination consists of ferns, bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) and Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica).
One day all you see tightly curled fiddleheads emerging from the crowns.
The next thing you know, the ferns are reaching over 3 feet. In a few more weeks these Ostrich Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) will top out at 4-5 feet.
Not long after we moved in, I removed the foundation planting of Japanese Yews (Taxus cuspidata) along the shady north side of the house, and replaced them with Ostrich Ferns. Japanese Yews are pretty boring, at least when kept as an unnaturally short rectangular hedge. Keeping them at 3 feet or less is really a form of cruelty to plants.
Of course, the disadvantage of Ostrich Ferns as a foundation planting is that they die back in winter.
I furnished the Ostrich Ferns with a variety of companions for each season. In spring, there are lots of Virginia Bluebells and Bleeding Hearts.
Ostrich Ferns spread aggressively, and sometimes I dig out several of the crowns.
When the Ostrich Ferns are about this size, before they have finished unfurling, they look to me like green caterpillars rearing up on their back legs.
Oh, and one other spring companion: False Forget-Me-Not (Brunnera macrophylla) Bleeding Hearts and Bluebells are ephemerals, but Brunnera’s foliage lasts all year long.
Usually Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) joins in the party, but this year they are late.
What are your favorite plant combinations for spring?