We recently heard a teacher tell first graders, "It is spring but it’ll be three or four weeks before there are flowers, maybe longer." We thought, "But there are snow crocus, snowdrops, winter aconite, witchhazel and others in bloom right now. You can see them even at 45 mph!”
So let’s all grow more early bloomers. Kids should know that flowers are opening every day from earliest spring to latest fall."
Here are just some of the species currently in bloom, a month into spring. They are in no particular order since spring species, more than all others, defy organization. List them in bloom order? Talk about variable: This year species A will bloom two weeks after winter wanes, in concert with B, C, and D. Next year it may hold out to flower weeks later with different companions. Even sorting this line-up by name would be futile. Common names abound, which to choose? The alternative, scientific names, seem way too formal for creatures that embody the unpredictable, joyful explosion of new life.
(Caltha palustris) is a spring blooming North American native most often found along stream banks and wetlands but may accept average garden conditions. It's a day-brightener in spring that goes completely dormant by summer.
(Brunnera macrophylla) The all-green species is a workhorse in our groundcover team for part shade. The variegated forms are worthy additions to a perennial garden so long as you keep seedlings in check and cut out any all-green reversions. All types are charming in their sprays of sky blue flowers.
(Acer pennsylvanica) Most people are surprised to hear "maple flowers" but there they are, tinting a red maple's canopy and dangling on the likes of moosewood, aka striped maple.
(Anemonella thalictroides) Not a true anemone but a true gem in the spring woodland.
(A. nemerosa) Cheerful, ephemeral North American native woodlander, spreading over tiime but not pushy.
(Lathyrus vernus) A clump forming, long lived perennial that is a pretty foliage plant post bloom, vernal sweet pea is deserving but not well known.
(Viola labradorica) Many of the native violets are blooming now. As owners of two Labrador retrievers we felt we should always keep a spot for the Labrador violet, too. Even after bloom its dark leaves look great in a rock wall.
(Prunus species and hybrids) Cherry trees in bloom are things of romance, particularly the weeping cherry.
They are three trees in one, created by grafting a straight trunk to hardy roots, and then grafting weeping branches to the top of that trunk. If branches develop from the trunk or roots they will not weep but grow vertically. They will also bloom differently, often white rather than pink.
Unless you cut out such errant growth at its source, the upright growing limbs will become dominant and eventually shade out and kill the weeping branches. An upright white-blooming cherry replaces the pink weeper.
(E. rubrum and other species) In the perfectly sheltered woods these are evergreen species that bear pink, white, lilac or yellow blooms above attractive foliage.
(Stylophorum diphyllum) Native to much of eastern North America, wood poppy is true gold in the shade. Over its long bloom season, just starting, it produces lots of seed. That seed is this plant's transportation strategy so don't invite it unless you want lots of it.
(Veronica repens) Yes, it is a lawn weed. Have you ever seen a lawn full of this weed in bloom? Beautiful. So if it's in your lawn and you like blue flowers - who doesn't?! - try to enjoy it now.
(Dicentra spectabilis) Enjoy the dangling hearts, but keep your nose away from this leading member of the fumitory family.
(Fritillaria meleagris) The checker pattern that gives the species its common name is very faint in the white varieties. It is a bulb that becomes a self sower and we indulge it.
(Helleborus x orientalis) Some have been blooming for a month already. The show goes on and on because even after the true flower is pollinated and seed is developing, the eye-catching colorful bracts remain attractive.
(Hyacinthus hybrid varieties) Such large flowers they do not seem real!
(Magnolia stellata) The star magnolia blooms earlier but does not lose its flowers to frost so often as its big brother, the saucer magnolia. The star magnolia is fading now as the saucer magnolias begin.
(Sanguinaria canadensis) Another North American woodland native, bloodroot may bloom for a week or if the spring happens to be very warm, a single day. Its pollinators find it quickly and the petals fall, their pollinator-summoning misson complete. Gardeners don’t mind – its beauty is no less for being brief. The double-flowered variety pictured here befuddles pollinators and so provides a longer show.
(Mertensia virginica) Can’t beat Virginia bluebells for ooo-ah power in spring. Plant them among ferns or another late-rising perennial that will come on as the bluebells go dormant in summer.
(Narcissus species and hybrids) Early blooming daffodils have come and faded already. Now the mid- and late season of large-flowered trumpets begins.
(Pachysandra procumbens) The North American native pachysandra is only semi-evergreen, so it may bloom without leaves in spring, as you see here.
(Pulsatilla vulgaris) We think pasqueflower has some magic, that it causes so many people to comment – on the furry look of the flower buds and stems, on the precocious bloom that precedes the year’s greenery, on the delicate lion’s mane seed puffs and on the neat, clean deep green of the summer foliage
(Tulipa species and hybrids) If you have only tall, late-blooming tulips you are missing this great opening act.
Although there are oodles more species that could be shown here for their bloom, we must give a nod to the species that light up the scene by virtue of foliage alone. It’s another big group in the what-was-that spring eye-catcher category. We let one plant represent the whole bunch.
Much more to come. The buds of the saucer magnolia are ready to open. Will the frost claim them on their first night? Will a rogue spring heat wave cause the petals to drop off after opening? Or will it be that one year in five or so when it puts on a spectacular week-long show? Saucer magnolia always keeps us guessing.