Other spring bulbs like daffodils and scilla can poke up early growth. Don't worry about it. The blooms are still tucked underground and won't emerge until milder spring weather. Hardy spring bulbs can survive a lot of cold. Even if the tips of the plants get a tinge of frost-bitten brown, the bulbs themselves will usually be fine. In western Washington we seldom have temperatures cold enough to freeze the ground down 4 or 5 inches.
Mulching over the bulb plantings with 2-3 inches of any composted material will provide a bit of shelter. Use home made compost, commercial compost, small deciduous leaves, or any other fairly loose material.
Pruning needs to be handled carefully so that the flower buds on spring bloomers aren't cut off before they bloom. One lovely early bloomer is native currant (Ribes sanguineum.) These currants bloom quite early in the spring with brilliant pink flowers, which makes up in color for what they lack in size. Pruning off the ends of the branches now will reduce the spring bloom. Most spring shrubs have formed their buds for the spring of 2001. However, Ribes can get quite straggly looking if it isn't pruned regularly. The best practice is to take out some branches, all the way to the ground, removing perhaps 3 or 4 of the oldest branches. The plant blooms on wood produced in the summer previous to bloom, so it's necessary to allow time for the new wood to grow and for new buds to set. If pruned too late in the summer, the shrub doesn't bloom well. Pruning during or just after bloom is the best practice.
There's a practice called "renovation pruning" which drastically cuts the whole bush to the ground in late winter. The result is a thicket of new stems all the same age that can gradually be trained into a shapely bush. If you choose to do that, you lose a season of bloom on this plant. Forsythia, rhododendrons, azaleas, deutzia, and other spring-blooming shrubs are all best pruned when they are in bloom or when the bloom is fading. Winter pruning, if necessary, doesn't generally harm the plant but will reduce the spring show. Don't prune any broadleaf evergreen shrubs (like rhododendron) when the temperature's below freezing.
Here's a reminder on deer-resistant plants; many of you frequently ask if anything really repels them. Other than a motivated dog, few things do. Deer will avoid some plants but whether they leave them alone depends on a number of factors. Plants with young, tender leaves may be eaten but the mature ones survive. Bark on young fruit trees, such as apple, can be chewed and girdled, killing the trees. A crowded deer population, such as island populations, will munch plants previously ignored. The best defense for a garden, especially if the garden is a food source containing fruit and vegetables, is a capable, 8 foot fence properly constructed and backed up by a motivated dog.
Here are some plants that deer avoid some of the time in some conditions. Flowers: narcissus (daffodils), all types. Foxglove (digitalis.) Iberis (perennial candytuft.) Shrubs: Ilex (holly). Mahonia. Some rhododendron. Viburnum. Trees: Vine maple and Japanese maple (sometimes.) Western red cedar. Pines. Oaks.
Check with your neighbors to see what they grow that the 4-legged munchers avoid. My mother's home in California featured a deer population so fearless that they would march right up on the patio, poke their heads in an unscreened window, and eat the flowers off the dining table. (Screens helped that.)
Hortsense: Managing plant problems with Integrated Pest Management