This beautiful variegated Daphne, in the Front Border, was blooming in late April (zone 6b). The blooms have a beautiful fragrance and groupings of small pink and white flowers.
Perhaps what I love about this shrub even more than the flowers is the interesting, evergreen foliage. Last June, when I hosted a garden tour, the shrub obviously had no flowers, but many people commented about how much they loved it.
If you are looking for an alternative to a conifer, an evergreen without needles, try Daphne.