Thoughts on how to create a well-designed garden retreat.

Spring Ephemerals

As I wrote about yesterday.  Spring is a season full of surprises and change.  Each day seems to bring a new plant blooming and makes a walk through the garden a new pleasant surprise each day.  There are some native Spring blooming plants though that you only see for a very brief time in the Spring.  These plants are called Spring Ephemerals.

Spring Ephemerals are plants that most often grow in the woods and do all their growing in a very short period of time.  These plants sprout leaves before the trees leaf out, bloom and then die back to the ground soon after the tree leaves are fully out.  Their whole life cycle is based on using the light and moisture available before the trees start taking most of both.

Spring beauties are delicate looking little plants with white/ soft pink flowers.  There are a couple species of Hepatica that bloom either white, pink or blue.  Trout lily is a yellow flowered lily with speckled leaves.  All of these you can look up online for pictures and more information.

One of the favorites among most people are the Trillium.  Trilliums are so named because the whole plant seems to be based on threes.  The leaves are three leaves fanned out usually in a flat plane.  From the center comes a single flower with three petals.  White, pink, maroon, and yellow are the possible colors.  The leaves are often mottled.  Some trilliums have their flowers upright and some are ‘Nodding”.


My favorite is the Virginia Bluebell.  When I was in college, I visited a memorial garden that had whole hillsides planted with these.  It was breathtaking.  Blue is a favorite flower color for me as I find it very cooling in a garden.  On occasion you will find bluebells that start out looking more pink before they turn blue.

Virginia Bluebells

Other ephemerals are Mayapple, Jack in the Pulpit, and Bloodroot.

In my mind all of these are to be treasured because they are so fleeting and help to mark the seasons.  Please don’t go dig these up from the wild for your garden.  Find nurseries that propagate them in their nursery rather than wild collect.  This way you leave the wild ones for others to enjoy and every gardener knows that some times when you transplant a plant, you end up killing it.


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