In My Garden: Spring Beauties

This has been a cold, rainy spring. For a long time, nothing was emerging and, remembering a few really cold winter nights, I was worried. Finally, about two weeks later than usual, my daily garden walks showed some green. I got excited and started carrying my camera to capture the beauties that make spring so rewarding. All these pictures were taken in my garden between May 15 and June 10.


The first to bloom is the bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). I planted a little patch of these ephemerals a couple of years ago and they are doing well, gradually expanding. This is a cultivar with the double flowers; the species is a single flower. This is only a few inches high, so there is lots of bending down to appreciate the flowers. And yes, it really does have a red root.

About the same time, the mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) emerges. These leaves fascinate me enough that I often forget to look for the flowers underneath. This patch started with one plant and has started to spread a bit. I’ve added a few more plants to help it become a bigger patch sooner.

The wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is one of my favorite native plants. This bright color is actually the native species, so different than most native woodland plants which are white. These are not long-lived plants, but in my garden they self-seed reliably and are now scattered throughout the bed.

Out in the sunny area is a stand of beach plums (Prunus maritimus) that is now about 10 years old. Flowering trees and shrubs are a weakness of mine, and this one provides a bright spot against a big old red cedar.

A few years ago during a visit to the Garden in the Woods plant shop, I indulged in a variegated doghobble (Leucothoe spp.) plant, and put it in a part-shade section of the front garden. It hasn’t thrived the way the leucothoe does at Garden in the Woods – it took a long time to establish and something seems to enjoy eating the leaves. But this year, for the first time, there was a noticeable flower on it. Very gratifying.

I would greatly love to plant a species dogwood tree, (Cornus florida) – I grew up with a beautiful pink dogwood right outside our front door. But there is too much risk of anthracnose disease so I couldn’t plant it. I ran across this beauty in a nursery, Cornus ‘Rutgan’ Stellar Pink, and had to have it.  With a bit of research I learned that is it a cross between the Cornus florida and the Cornus kousa, which gives it resistance to anthracnose while still retaining most of the original features like this pink bloom. Since it’s as close as I’m going to get to the original, I’ll take it.

In the meanwhile, another native, Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia, re-classified as Swida alternifolia), has volunteered itself out in the back. The white flowers are lovely and provide a fitting destination point for my garden walks.

By now, it seems that the plants have caught up with the improving weather, and we are mostly back on schedule. Now to start looking for the early summer blooms!


  1. I LOVE the photos! And the descriptions are excellent. We have a mayapple, and I didn’t know they had flowers underneath the leaves. I’ll look tomorrow!


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