Monday, May 11, 2015

Spring Ephemerals

Mertensia -- Virginia Bluebells
Just before the leaves of deciduous trees are at their fullest, the spring ephemerals bloom.  This group of woodland plants use the fact that the leaves of the deciduous trees are not shading the forest floor to grow and store food for next winter.  The plants grow quickly and bloom early just as the trees are starting to leaf out.

And then they disappear, leaves and all, sometime before the end of July. So if you're wanting to move or divide your ephemerals, do it before summer. I mark where they are so that I don't accidentally dig into them when I'm playing in the garden later in the season.

Mertensia -- Virginia Bluebells -- is one of the nicest ephemerals.  Have you ever seen a better blue?  Mertensia pops up even when there are morning frosts and bravely grows along with the Trilliums, a bushy, leafy plant making it hard to believe it's going to disappear in just a few weeks.

Two other ephemerals you might like are Dodecatheon and the fall-blooming Colchicums with their large, strap-like leaves.  Dodecatheon blooms just as the eaves are popping.  It's dainty blooms look like tiny badminton birds. Colchicum will put up a clump of strap-like leaves in the spring.  Those leaves will grow and reserve strength for most of the spring and then disappear before July.  The leaves will die down so completely that you'll forget about them and then be surprised in autumn when the flowers pop up -- no leaves, just flowers.
Spring ephemerals  - an early hint of the summer that is to follow.