Garden Plant: Spring Surprises

Garden plant: Spring Surprises

For those of you who can’t wait for spring to arrive, these surprising plants are an excellent solution: the hazel tree, rockcress (Arabis), primrose (Primula acaulis) and lilacbush (Aubrieta). Not only do they bloom early in the year, but the latter two unveil flowers again later in the year. A hazelnut starts out beautiful and green, changes colour in the autumn, only to reveal its decorative, gnarled branches in the winter. These garden plants won’t just surprise you in the springtime - they’ll do it all year long.

  • This hazel cultivar, the most famous of these plants, may very well be the Corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana). Its unique corkscrew branches are already quite a sight and the bare wood blooms with hanging garlands of flowers. Shortly afterwards, the light green, curling leaves appear. Since the hazel tree is a slow grower, it is grafted to the rootstock of the common hazel, which speeds up the process. The corkscrew hazel grows to between 2-3 metres tall.
  • The primrose has bright-green, robust leaves and vibrant flowers. They grow between 10-15 cm tall and roughly 20 cm wide, with a warm, yellow centre to attract insects. Primroses are one of the earliest spring bloomers, add a great deal of colour to your garden or patio and do best with some protection from the wind. This all-rounder plant will thrive in planters, directly in the soil and in rocky gardens.
  • As a perennial, the lilacbush is an effective ground cover that also does well in planters. They prefer a warm, dry environment and flourish in rocky gardens, around walls and between pavements. They further outwards (up to 60 cm) than they do upwards (10-15 cm).
  • Rockcress finds success in fairly nutrient-poor soil and bright locations. It combines exceptionally well with lilacbush: their colours contrast and complement each other, and together they unfurl a cheerful flower carpet towards approaching spring. The measurements for this plant are similar to the lilacbush.

Hazel, rockcress, primrose and lilacbush care

  • All the spring surprises prefer sunny spots, though they can also handle half shade.
  • All of them require well-draining soil and need more water in planters and buckets than when planted directly into the ground.
  • When planting them, leave a lot of room: lilacbush, primrose and rockcress all grow widely and the hazel tree needs space to curl itself in all directions.
  • The hazel tree needs more food than the ground-cover plants.
  • Rockcress and lilacbush should be pruned a great deal after their first bloom of the season; remove all dead parts from the primrose and hazel. Pruning too drastically often costs it its corkscrews.


All the spring surprises are early bloomers and have their roots in Europe. Rockcress is native to the Caucasus, primrose is the pride of the Alps and lilacbush primarily grows between rocks and stones in the mountains of southern Europe. The hazel tree has been grown by humans for centuries. It is valued not only for its nuts, but also for the spiritual, protective properties which it is believed to have.