My favorite early spring bloomer is Camellia japonica. When I was growing up, our neighbors, Ralph and Alice, had an enormous camellia bush in their front yard, and the last time I drove past my childhood home, it was still thriving. So when we bought the farmhouse and took a tour of the yard and gardens, I was thrilled to find a camellia there.
My own camellia grows just outside the kitchen windows, giving me the best seat in the house as spring unfolds. The buds at the top of the bush open first, where they're in full sun. I watch the buds form, then swell, then the cerise starts to show at the tips. As the days warm up, the buds from top to bottom swell and open, and before long, whole shrub is in full bloom.
Every Northwest gardener should have one... it's a beautiful early spring delight.