Can you read the signs below, and foretell what's coming? Early spring beauties can develop and change so quickly. We hope you don't miss any of them.
Take a look, make your guess, then click on the picture for the answer.
(Mertensia virginica) begins the season full of blue-violet anti-freeze but quickly greens up, then delights us with dangling bell flowers that progress from pink to baby blue. A spring ephemeral native to partly shaded wooded sites in much of eastern North America. Its fade-away (gone by mid-summer) makes it a good partner for later-emerging hosta, blue bush clematis (C. heracleifolia) or Japanese painted fern (Athyrium goeringianum 'Pictum').
In its white-edged form (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'), there are few plants for the shady garden that receive -- and deserve -- so much attention. It's also distinctive as it emerges in spring.
This suckering shrub is native to the Ural Mountains in Siberia so we shouldn't be surprised that it's one of the earliest plants to leaf out and least often damaged by cold. Its buds broke weeks ago, prompted by lengthening days and oblivious to the cold. Despite nights in the single digits, there's not a bit of dead tissue on that emerging shoot.
The shoot's red highlights come from anthocyanins, naturally produced compounds that help keep cell contents from freezing. Like other plants that leaf out in ruddy tones, a Ural false spirea will be green by summer.
The Ural false spirea grows to 8 feet tall and suckers as wide as you allow. Variety 'Sem' is somewhat more compact. It blooms well in sun and part shade. The white plume flowers develop in late June and July.
If deadheaded, the shrub will bloom into fall, attracting butterflies all the while.