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Signs of Early Spring on the U St. Paul Campus

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Spring has indeed sprung!  This is an unusually early spring with temperature records set across Minnesota according to Mark Seely's WeatherTalk. Gardeners should be careful about uncovering plants as we could still see frost as late as mid-May (our frost-free date in zone 4 is around May 20 and June 5 in zone 3). Mulch should be pushed aside plants that are greening up and sprouting. Rain / moisture will be out biggest contributing factor to how the spring will proceed and how we will go into the summer. Information about drought is found on our Extension website. Today, I had to take a few minutes and walk around our beautiful St. Paul campus here at the University. Planted with a diverse population of plants (and well-used by our plant ID classes), the campus is literally bursting into spring before our eyes. Some of the eye-catchers are below.

Royal Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star') A great ornamental specimen small tree. Spring fragrant double white 3" flowers; fall foliage yellow to bronze. Full sunP1170012 Magnolia.JPG. Mature size: 10'x10'. Hardy in zones 4-6.

P1170040 Pachysandra.JPG

Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis) Evergreen groundcover with rich green leathery leaves and spikes of small white flowers in spring. Part / full shade. Mature size: 8" x 12". Hardy in zones 4-8.

American Elm (Ulus americana) No longer sold or planted due Dutch Elm Disease, these old P1160987 Elm.JPGspecimens on campus are fine examples of why we planted so many elms in our urban landscapes. New varieties, resistant to DED, are being bred and trialed by University and industry breeders.

P1170047 White Forsythia.JPGWhite forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum) Not actually a Forsythia at all, this deciduous shrub blooms prolifically with white, forsythia-like flowers. Full sun. Mature size: 5'x5'. Hardy in zones 4-8.

Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica) P1170026 Scilla Hill.JPGPlant these small bulbs in the fall and in no time, you will have a blanket of blue. "Squill hill" on campus is always a sure indicator spring has arrived. Full / part sun/ Mature size: 5" x 4". Hardy in zones 2-8.

Heartleaf Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia) I saw these P1170051 Bergenia.JPGplants, often confused for rhubarb or cabbage, planted in every home in central Sweden and knew I had to have one - or several. Large thick heart-shaped glossy leaves are bright green in spring and turn bronze in cold weather. Stalks of hot pink flower clusters bloom in early summer. Part sun. Mature size: 12" x 18". Hardy in zones 3-8.

P1170022 Forsythia Rhododendron.JPGRhododendron & Forysthia: With Forsythia (Forsythia spp.) about to burst into bloom on campus (you can see a few yellow flowers here), the bright green of the Rhododendron spp. attracts the most attention here. An evergreen shrub with white or lavender flowers. Part / full shade. Mature size: 6' x 4'. Hardy in zones 4-7. Prefers moist, acid soil.

P1170024 Red Maple.JPG
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) Named 'red maple' not for its leave, but its scarlet spring flower, the Acer rubrum creates a red glow while other trees are creating a green glow in early spring. Full / part sun. Mature size: 55' x 45'. Hardy in zones 4-6. Prefers moist, acid soil.

P1170042 Viburnum.JPGViburnum spp. Many Viburnums dot our campus landscape and range in size from compact to large shrubs. Big fat flower buds, white flower clusters and persistent colorful fruits are some of their features. Full / part sun. Mature size: varies by species / cultivar. Hardy in zones 2-8 depending on the species / cultivar.P1160990 Viburnum with fruit.JPG

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