Category Archives: Spring Color

Plants that star in the spring

Dear Diary…Spring’s Emergence 2024

the Astonishing Magnolia x loebneri ‘Ballerina’…undamaged by late frosts.

I’ve always thought of this blog as a gardening journal, so here’s my thoughts on Spring 2024.

I don’t know what it’s been like in your neck of the woods, but the weather pattern here in southern New England this spring has had us on edge. We keep expecting something extreme to happen, like a mid April snowstorm. Actually,  it’s been a good weather pattern  for the garden…lots, lots and lots of rain (could use more sun!) and consistently cool temperatures since mid March.  No unexpected frosts, well, err, until last night, when I thought the predicted low temp was 40F. There was actually a light frost…no serious damage…just a tinge on the tender new foliage on plants we were hardening off.  It looks like we’re in store for possible dips in temperature this week, so last night was a reminder to provide overnight protection.

This consistently cool but not freezing weather means that the early flowering trees blossoms lingered, undamaged by late freezes or a sudden summery hot day.  The Hellebores have put on a grand show for more than 6 weeks now.   The Epimedium are beginning to offer blossoms…some emerge a little earlier than others, but they will carry on into early mid May.

Helleborus ‘Grape Galaxy’

Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Yubae’

A few Jeffersonia dubia seedlings appear (from last year’s dropped seed). A rare find for us!

Some little plantlets near this fancy Podophyllum…not sue if they are seedlings or plants generated by bits of root, disbursed by the voles.

For the past few years, we’ve decided to forgo a fall cleanup, and do a staggered one in the spring. It’s true the gardens aren’t neat as a pin, and yes it’s hard to leave those dead stalks when so much new growth  is surging. What I have noticed though, due to this delayed removal of lingering dead leaves are many more self sown seedlings…from Woodland Peonies, Hellebores, Podophyllum, Corydalis in new color variations, even Jeffersonia dubia!  I will lift some of these seedlings when they are mature enough, but I also think encouraging these  early perennials to naturalize is important too!

Epimedium ‘Black Sea’

I do hope we get a 4 solid weeks of spring temperatures this year (my optimistic wish is for a range between 45-70F) .Please, please  Weather Goddess do not let this chilly early spring weather turn quickly into hot summer temperatures.

A lovely double white Hellebore, still sending out blossoms.

How is spring enfolding where you garden? Pleasantly, I hope.

An Informal Early Spring Planter

Last November I thought ahead and potted up some bulbs for early spring planters.  One of the first to bloom is  Narcissus ‘Minnow’ with its dainty pale lemon flowers,  combined here with deep blue Grape Hyacinths (Muscari auscheri ‘Dark Eyes’). Adding a causal look are hardy, “evergold”, grassy-leaved Sweet Flag(Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’) ,  tufts of little Dwarf Mondo Grass,  (Ophiopogon  japonicus nana ) and golden leaved Ivy (Hedera ‘Amber Waves’.)

It’s true, the bulb display won’t last, (but they will keep longer in cool conditions) . When the flowers fade, sub in Primroses for late spring, or maybe a small flowered species Fuchsia for summer.  It’s hard to go wrong when you use this lovely Camp de Fiori planter.

2019: A Spring to Remember

A favorite vignette with Enkianthus c. ‘Sikokianus’ and Acer palmatum ‘Chishio Improved’

It’s been a while since we’ve had a cool, moist  (wet…maybe really wet) lengthy spring.  Most years, April gives us a wintry mix; we get 2 weeks of spring in May, and then summer-like weather hits us by Memorial Day and we soon start praying for rain. Not this year. The flowering trees and shrubs have been putting on a show unlike any other year in recent memory.  Here are a few joyful images from the past 6 weeks.

Arisaema fargesii foliage emerging

Glaucidium palmatum, the lovely wood poppy bloomed for us for the first time!

Art imitating Life

Clematis recta ‘Lime Close’ growing up through Kolwitzia

Leucosceptrum ‘Gold Angel’ effectively disguising Allium foliage!!!!

Kolwitzia ‘Dreamcatcher’, aka Beautybush’

Epimedium ‘Domino’ has continued to throw off flowers since late April, and here it is mid June!

Paeonia ‘Bartzella’

Right now the variegated Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’ is stunning with thousands of 3-4″ flowers.

What plants totally blew you away with their beauty this spring?

Stachyurus chinensis ‘Celina’

Shrubs and trees which flower on old wood, just before the leaves unfurl, have a special charm. Think Witchhazel, Native Dogwood, Redbud. One that we especially love and isn’t so well known is Stachyurus chinensis ‘Celina’. This shrub bears pendant racemes of creamy white/yellow flowers in early spring (April for us). We have ‘Celina’ planted in a sheltered spot  from winter winds, which can desiccate the flower buds. This area is shaded by a Japanese Maple and gets 4-6 hours of sun. Our 7 year old plant is about 4′ tall with arching branches from the base, reaching to about 6′ in width. We expect it will grow to 8′ x 10′ eventually. Fall color varies year to year, but we’ve seen it take on yellow and orange tones. hardy in zones 6-9.

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Magnolia ‘Sunsation’


I am just smitten with this Magnolia’s nuanced loveliness….chalices of buttery yellow petals infused with plum and pink appear here in early May, waiting for the last frost to come and go.  Yes, it blooms before the leaves unfurl, providing that magic of color against bare wood.

Bred by the late Dr. Augie Kerr, MagnoliaSunsation’ is a hybrid of ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Woodsman’, and is considered hardy in zones 4-9. ‘Sunsation’ blooms precociously … very young plants try to put on a show which pleases those of us who tend to be impatient.  Her form is upright and pyramidal, reaching heights of 25-30′.

Grow ‘Sunsation‘ in a rich well drained soil in sun or partial shade.

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Smitten by Solomon’s Seal

Polygonatum x hybridum 'Striatum'

Polygonatum x hybridum ‘Striatum’


Other forms….Unfurling





Just a few images to share….loving the various species and  forms in the genus Polygonatum (Solomon’s Seal).  We currently have about 15 selections, ranging in size from tiny 6″ Polygonatum humile to  6′ selections of P. biflorum. and are always seeking out more.

quick facts: Solomon Seals is in the family Asparagaceae. Most forms are hardy in zones 5-8, (a few in zones 3 & 4). They slowly spread by jointed rhizomes, and enjoy well drained soil in partial to full shade. Long lived and almost indestructible, Solomon’s Seal is one of those plants that holds its good looks with little care all season.

Early Spring Blues at Wave Hill

wave_hill_blues72Hey New Yorkers, you shouldn’t miss this scene. All at once and everywhere, Glory of the Snow, Chinonodoxa sardensis, has created carpets of  blue on the grounds of beautiful Wave Hill in Riverdale. I had an hour or so to wander the grounds before my talk in the city on Wednesday, and was able to capture a few images.


On the slope behind the building that houses the Glyndor Gallery, there were easily a gazillion bulbs just beginning to open.  I have no idea how many were originally planted, but over the past 50 years (guessing) Chionodoxa  has self sown with total abandon. Take note: it is deer resistant so it is the perfect bulb for naturalizing in a woodland garden.


Chionodoxa sardensis

From each bulb rise 4-6″ stems bearing 5-10 starry blue flowers accented with white centers which give quite a jolt of color.  Plant where you won’t mind the foliage lingering while it stores energy before dying back. Glory of the Snow starts blooming just as Crocus begin to fade and is a good companion bulb to the earliest daffodils, Adonis and Hellebores.  Hardy in zones 3-8.

Not Just Fall Color: Enkianthus campanulatus


Enkianthus fall foliage

Redvein Enkianthus is about to betray its quiet charms any day now, with a display of technicolor fall foliage in shades of gold, orange, fiery red through purple. In mid to late spring it delights in a more soft-spoken way, bearing dainty clusters of white or red bells, depending on the cultivar. E. ‘Lipstick’ has white bells delicately edged in brick red, ‘Red Bells’ are colored, as the name suggests, coral red, and ‘Showy Lantern’. A slow growing shrub at first, it is often listed at growing from 6-8′ tall and 4-5′ wide, but with age it can easily reach 15′ or more with a wider reach. In fact, Enkianthus campanulatus can be pruned to from a lovely small tree. It is a perfect candidate for the partially shaded garden, both large and small.

Enkianthus campanulatus

Enkianthus campanulatus

Enkianthus 'Lipstick'

Enkianthus ‘Lipstick’


Enkianthus c. ‘Red Bells’

Enkianthus c. 'Showy Lantern'

Enkianthus c. ‘Showy Lantern’

Grow Redvein Enkianthus in full sun or partial shade. It enjoys an enriched, well drained, acidic soil that stays evenly moist, although we have found it to be quite forgiving of dry spells, once established. It is deer resistant, but please note that deer will eat almost anything if hungry enough. Perfectly hardy in zones 5-8, with some reporting success growing it in zone 4B.

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Anemone sylvestris

anemonesylvestrisweb Anemone sylvestris, is simply lovely and so innocent-looking, but perhaps it should be introduced to you as a potential ground cover. Commonly known as Snowdrop Anemone, this super hardy gem begins blooming in mid-late spring, producing nodding buds which open to 5 petaled white blossoms centered with a ring of yellow stamens. The blossoms, buoyantly dance on 12-18” stems, which are good for cutting, emit a soft early spring fragrance.   Although it is a European native, it looks right at home in naturalistic landscapes here in the US, spreading vigorously by rhizomes, and it is very effective for disguising early spring bulb foliage. The wooly seed heads that develop once the blossoms fade add visual interest later in the summer.  Occasionally, a small flush of flowering in takes place early fall.


Anemone sylvestris is happiest in a rich well drained soil, and is hardy in zones 4-8. It is not fond of extreme heat, so best to hold off in southern gardens. There are no serious insect or disease problems and it is deer resistant.

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