Happy Birthday, Graham! | Main | Mother Love

April 16, 2006

Spring Ephemerals

There is something rather bittersweet about the spring ephemerals. You wait all year for them and are delighted when they appear, knowing full well that they won’t last long.

I’m sure there are very specific guidelines on categorizing plants as ephemerals but I’m using my own loose interpretations here.

I would start out with the crocus, a cheerful spring bulb guaranteed to bring a smile to anyone’s face. They come in a variety of colors....

Purple crocus. (Click image for larger)

....and build dense clusters as they multiply.

Siberian squill also form cheerful clumps, creating a wash of blue color like a river or stream.

Siberian squill. (Click image for larger)

The woods are the perfect place to look for native spring ephemerals. The other day I took the dogs for a walk in nearby French Park. On our way back from the woods, I glanced into the brush edging the walking path and was astonished to see not one, but two clusters of bloodroot in bloom.

Bloodroot. (Click image for larger)

I must have been truly distracted on my way to the woods because I completely missed them, which was a pretty incredible feat considering how white the flowers are and how evident they are against their surroundings.

Bloodroot remind me of strange alien life forms whose bat-like wings surround them when it’s cold and open up with the warmth of the sun. Very cool.

Budding Bloodroot. (Click image for larger)

My astonishment continued the next morning when I stood with Graham in our driveway, waiting for the school bus. I glanced up into our woodland/dry streambed garden, and there was a single bloodroot in bloom.

I don’t remember planting it, even though I know I’ve wanted to add bloodroot to that bed for years. Obviously I did so last year!

I would even add trees to my list of spring ephemerals, in this case the magnolia species.

I’ve too much Dakota prairie in me to ever want to transform myself into a Southern belle, but if it would mean being able to enjoy the sights and scents of magnolia trees for more than just a few days, I would certainly consider it.

Our “Merrill? magnolia trees are seven years old now and have truly come into their own. Last week’s unseasonably early warm weather made the buds pop, and every day I came home from work to be greeted by even more blossoms.

The two magnolia. (Click image for larger)

The threat of rain concerned me because a hard rainfall can wipe out an entire tree’s blooms in an instant. But luckily, the rain never arrived, and we’ve been graced with glorious blooms for almost a week.

And the fragrance! Just step out of the house onto the deck, and you are instantly enveloped in a cloud of sweet smells, which travel all the way to the front yard. Working in the yard is certainly enhanced by this kind of aromatherapy.

The trees are uplit with landscape lights and are eerily beautiful at night, their delicate white blossoms glowing in the dark.

All these spring flowers are lovely but don’t last long, so you really have to stop to enjoy them while you can.

More Spring Photos

The hellebores continue to please me with their greenish, waxy-looking flowers. I planted three more last year.

Hellebores. (Click image for larger)

Since they are in Pont’s main flight path through the garden, it remains to be seen if they’ve survived.

Last fall I planted 96 “Czar Peter? tulips in the middle bed of the back gardens. They are coming up nicely, with an unusual purple stripe along their leaves.

Czar Peter leaf. (Click image for larger)

Taking Care of Business

In spring, my list of things to do grows longer by the minute, and Brian has to talk me down when I start to get that frantic look in my eyes. I could be outside every spare minute and still not get it all done. That really puts me in a panic when I let it get to me.

I’m still clearing out perennial beds, but I’m almost finished with that chore. I was able to cut back most of the clematis this weekend and got a start on pruning the shrub roses. But when I look around, I see the prairie garden to be weeded, the early vegetables to get planted, the wisteria to be pruned and on and on. Yikes!

Sometimes I feel smug that I’ve gotten so much done already, and it’s only mid-April. (Is it just me or did Spring come early this year?) And at other times, I’m just overwhelmed.

Today, I had to tell myself just to give it up and stay indoors to tend to mundane household chores (Lord, do I hate ironing). I could feel my internal gardening pressure rising as the sun came out. It was supposed to rain, dang it! When it’s pouring out, I can work indoors without any guilt.

There should be gardening therapy for people like me. Not a therapy where sick people do gardening to feel better. I’m talking about therapy for “people who garden too much? or wish they could garden more, something to help them feel better when they can’t.

Maybe I’ll add that to my list of things to do.

What I’m Reading

Browsing through: “Architectural Plants: What to grow and how to grow it? by Christine Shaw. Too bad most of the plants won’t survive in Zone 4.

Still listening to: “Outlander – Part 2? by Diana Gabaldon. Continuing the tale of romantic Scottish time travel. Two disks left!

Graham’s current favorite: “The Borrowers? by Mary Norton. Another children’s classic. And “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late? by Mo Willems.

Today’s Grahamisms

While watching a silly cartoon in which Baby Bugs Bunny and Baby Daffy were building a “huge? castle, Graham said, “That's not the biggest castle I've ever seen. Actually I've never seen one but I know I will some day.? Too right, boyo.

“City Gardener,? Mom’s current favorite BBC gardening show was on. Graham watched for a while and then said, “You know, to make everything look really great, we need to paint the house green and add bricks all around the gardens. So get going.? Just what I need, a six-year-old design critic.

Posted by maasx003 at April 16, 2006 3:59 PM | Books | Family | Gardens


Lovely lovely pictures! And a great post as well.

Posted by: Ellen at April 16, 2006 11:37 PM

Oooh, those hellebores are wonderful. Where did you find such a thing? Yesterday, Easter, we were looking at our garden and found the Pasque Flower had bloomed overnight. Hmmm... Spring blessings to you.

Posted by: Diana at April 17, 2006 7:57 AM

"Spring Ephemerals" is such a great phrase for bulbs. It harkens so many nice associations for the fleeting flowers. BTW, great pics.

Posted by: Hanna in Cleveland at April 22, 2006 9:34 PM