Hellebores make quite a splash in the shade during spring.  A few years ago my Mom and I attended the "Hellebore Hurrah" at Phoenix Perennials (www.phoenixperennials.com, @PhoenixPer) and between us we bought three for my garden (thanks Mom!). Two of my hellebores are currently blooming. They have an amazingly long bloom time, starting at the end of January and still going strong at the end of April. Apricot Blush is a medium-sized plant with nodding blooms. This plant is a prolific self-seeder; last year it produced masses of shiny black seeds, which planted themselves around their parent.
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Apricot Blush hellebore
My other hellebore ("Double Queen mix") puts on a spectacular show during the dreary rainy days here. It's a bushy plant that produces striking pure white nodding flowers that fade to a yellowish/greenish/pinkish tone.
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Hellebore #2 - Double Queen.
Living on the West coast, it is fantastically easy to grow ferns in the garden. I planted a Maidenhair fern the first year we lived in our current house.  It has been moved around a couple of times, but has found its permanent home along a north facing fence.  It tends to spread in a rather crowded garden bed, but doesn't mind getting trimmed back a bit in midsummer.

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Maidenhair fern fiddleheads.
My Japanese Tassel fern grows in a difficult spot in the garden beside a row of cedar hedging.  Talk about low maintenance! This fern gets mulched in the spring, gets plenty of rain for 3/4 of the year, and seems to not have a care in the world.
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New frond unfurls on the Japanese Tassel fern
As far as shade plants go, heucheras are all the rage here. I'm not really a fan, but I do grow three different varieties (imagine if I was a fan?!).  My favourite is "Green Spice". 
Green Spice is truly one of my favourite garden plants.  Who could resist those amazing purple, green and silver leaves? As an experiment (and because I really wanted to buy another one), I have a second Green Spice planted in a mostly sunny area in my front yard.  The colours fade in the sun, but it gets its flowers just a little bit earlier than its alter ego in the shade. Unlike some heucheras, the flowers on this plant really add nothing to its beauty; they are a nondescript and spindly.

These are the plants I'm enjoying in the shady parts of my garden right now.  The corydalis will be blooming next, followed by hardy fuschia.
 
 
One of my favourite garden bloggers and authors, Gayla Trail (yougrowgirl.com, @yougrowgirl) recently launched a new concept on her website, the “Grow Write Guild”. The purpose of the guild is to provide some inspiration for garden bloggers (let’s face it, there are a few of us out there).  On first glance, the initial prompt seemed straightforward enough: to write about your first plant.  Not too difficult, right? Somehow, though, it seemed to get all messy and complicated….should I write about my first house plant? first garden? first rose bush? etc etc. You get the picture. That went nowhere and everywhere all at once. I moved on to Gayla’s second prompt, to write about a fantasy or dream garden. This was an interesting topic for me.  I don’t usually think about gardening in these terms.  I have wonderful days in the garden, and days when I anguish over it, but I don’t really think of it as existing in an ideal state (it’s a bit like motherhood that way!).  That’s not to say my garden couldn’t be improved. It’s a tiny garden, more urban than suburban in scope. In the end, my ideas for a dream garden boiled down to three wishes:

Wish #1: My current compost pile is not so much a pile as a plastic bin. And while the plastic bin makes quite beautiful compost, it just doesn’t make that much. Wish number 1 would be to have a real compost pile. I recently saw a picture of Martha Stewart’s compost pile, which was huge.  Yes, I actually felt compost pile envy.

Wish #2: Wish number 2 would be to have a garden shed (with a window!). To have a space to hang out, plant seeds, dream about the garden….truly that would be garden heaven.  Of course there would be a climbing rose growing up the side.

Wish #3: I love plants and I love trailing through my favourite garden centres. Roses, perennials, edibles - there are always new ones I want to try. But where to put them? Wish number 3 would be to magically have room for the new plants that capture my attention. A lilac tree? Plenty of room! A few squash plants? No problem! A peony? I’ve got just the spot!  You see how this is going. 

These are the things that would add up to a dream garden for me.  So, if there are any magic genies out there, with a bit of spare time, you know where to find me…..

 
 
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New growth on one of my potted Japanese maples
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Euphorbia in action
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Tulips among the Russian sage
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Purple sage among the tulips
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Pansies are always a favourite
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The cistus is growing nicely
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Camellia "Donation"
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All the clematis are growing. This is Lord Neville.
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The forsythia is reaching the end of its bloom
 
 
My tiny backyard garden was peaceful yesterday.  No lawnmowers roaring, no powerwashers blaring.  Only the sound of birds, chickadees mainly, going about their Spring business.  I had planned a day to work in the garden, thwarted initially by a torrential downpour.  Luckily for me the sun came out in the early afternoon.  Life seems to have been too hectic lately…I haven’t had much chance to take stock of the garden.  As usual, I’m behind on rose pruning, and there are a million tiny weeds to contend with.  I saw plenty of earthworms as I worked on the weeds.  I (mostly) finished up the rose pruning.  With the exception of one or two of my roses, I’m not someone who worries about how to prune. They’re plants! They’ll grow back if something goes awry during the pruning process.  I have found that roses take to pruning in unique ways.  The floribunda Floral Fairy Tale resents a hard pruning.  I pruned this rose quite lightly a few weeks ago, and now it is the first rose to have a bud.

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Floral Fairy Tale rose thinks it's June.
One of the perks of rose gardening in Spring is new foliage.  One of my very favourite roses, Simply Marvelous!, has wonderful dark new foliage, which shines like a mirror in the sunshine.  Why don't more people grow this rose?

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The stunning foliage of Simply Marvelous! floribunda rose.
The new foliage on Work of Art has a red cast to it.

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Work of Art climbing miniature rose.
I haven’t had time to shovel compost onto the garden or fertilize yet.  Ever vigorous, Hot Cocoa is one of the first roses in the garden this year to show signs of a new basal break.

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Gotta love basal breaks!
I'm looking forward to more stunning blooms from Hot Cocoa this year.  The foliage stays very healthy in my no spray garden.

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Blooms of Hot Cocoa in 2012.
Blanc Double de Coubert is already suckering along the edge of my driveway. These suckers are growing about 7 feet from the rose!  It's a bit of a battle every year, but this rose is worth it for its scent alone.

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Bothersome.
Well, still lots more work to be done! Happy Spring Gardening.