The Dirt: Stars in the Spring

Spring is only a few days away and everyone is getting excited. Garden staff is busy doing our final cleanup of the gardens before we open to the public April 1. We are pruning, mulching, planting and finishing several large projects we worked on while we were closed during the winter. Birds are chirping and occasionally, early in the morning or late in the day, we see an eagle hunting trout in our ponds.


Daffodils at Spring House

The real stars of the season are the flowers and many are just now getting ready to make their appearance. The usual early suspects are here now: crocus, daffodils, and hellebores. The warm weather this past week really brought them out. The Okame cherry down near the east entrance to the Chinese Garden is blooming and looks gorgeous as you pass by the original gate to Glen Burnie.


Cornus mas

A few less commonly seen plants are also blooming. Right now, the Cornelian dogwood (Cornus mas) is a nice shimmering yellow in the Spring Garden. Without the fancy white bracts of our native dogwood or the kousa dogwood, you can really appreciate the tiny yellow flowers as they bloom. A tree that normally blooms in March around here, it is a welcome harbinger of the other flowering trees to come soon after.


Iris reticulata

Closer to the ground, you can find winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)  and netted iris (Iris reticulata). The golden yellow of the aconite is peeking out of the ground amongst some hellebores in the picnic area. The diminutive blue netted iris is hiding near a corner of the stone wall in the same garden. Sometimes you have to look very carefully to find these small charmers when all the bigger trees and daffodils are vying for your attention.


Ipheion uniflorum

One of my favorite plants, however, is the spring starflower (Ipheion uniflorum). This tiny little spring bulb is a wonderful plant for naturalizing in a lawn or small garden area. They spread quite easily over the years through bulb offsets, so if you like a nice tidy plant, this may not be for you. The grass-like foliage blends nicely with a lawn and provides you a nice excuse for not mowing in the first few weeks of spring. They do have a slight oniony smell if cut or crushed. The slightly fragrant flowers range from blue to white, but are usually a nice soft blue.


Ipheion uniflorum trio

Part of my favoring this plant is the memory it brings every time I see it pop out. I first encountered it about 20 years ago when I moved into a new for me, but old house. The lawn was filled with these flowers. One fine spring day, I came home for lunch to find my wife and almost two-year-old daughter sitting on a blanket in the front yard surrounded by thousands of these blooms with the sun beaming down on them. To this day, and even though that little girl is now about to graduate from college, when I see this flower I am reminded of that painterly scene. That is the beauty of early spring flowers. Their blossoms promise so much about the season to come yet they can still remind us of treasures from the past.

Join me April 6 for a Garden Walkabout and let’s see what memories we can create for this year.

Photos by Perry Mathewes.

Published Date: 
Monday, March 14, 2016
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