Scenes of spring

Here in Central New York, spring can be long in coming. The last frost date is May 10, and we've been known to have snow storms even as last as Mother's Day!

Early spring

Serviceberry in spring ©Janet AllenServiceberry in spring

Flowering trees and shrubs are a delight in spring. Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadense) is one of the earliest and whitest (whiter in real life than appears in this photo.

We have five varieties of serviceberry, and they all bloom at slightly different times. It's nice to have this overlapping bloom since it extends the season of bloom (and also of the berries).

Another approach is to plant a small grove of serviceberries. I recall reading that having a grove of serviceberries in bloom is a rare delight. If we had acres of land, we'd certainly plant such a grove.

Bloodroot ©Janet AllenBloodroot (note the small bee on the single flower)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is one of the earliest and the most fleeting of all spring flowers. We have some nice patches of bloodroot, mostly double-flowered, but some single flowers.

Even though gardens feature more and more McMansion-esque double flowers (some approaching monstrosities), I'm becoming fonder of the single ones for their elegance and simplicity—and also because bees can actually get to the nectar.

Later in spring

The meadow in mid-May(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
The meadow in mid-May

In mid-May, our backyard meadow area is waking up. The reddish foliage is Husker's red penstemon (Penstemon digitalis 'Husker's Red').

Note the leaf litter. We aren't neatniks. We leave most of the old flower stalks, leaves, and so forth throughout the winter. In spring, we break down all the old stalks (which usually can be done just by hand) and put them in the compost. Some of it, though, just stays in the garden—a fact that birds like robins appreciate since these little bits of nature are important nest materials. As the foliage grows, all this litter is hidden as it slowly decomposes, enriching the soil year by year.

Columbines(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen

We really enjoy this cheerful area full of columbines and other spring flowers. The columbines in our front yard have come up by themselves and are a varied mix of columbines I had planted in the past. They seem to hybridize among themselves, so I'm not sure that even my Rocky Mountain blue columbine is the true species at this point. I try to keep my native columbines (Aquilegia canadensis), out in the backyard so they don't fraternize.

I've also been experimenting with how much leaf litter I can leave in the spring and still have columbines and other perennials spring up through them. They do pretty well, though I usually remove some of the leaves since it's a pretty thick leaf cover (and I get impatient to see what's growing). In addition to the leaves falling from the Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus) above them, we also rake up the leaves from our mini-lawn and put them in this area, so the leaf cover may be somewhat thicker than it might be in a real forest.

The shrubs in the background are inkberries (Ilex glabra) and spicebushes (Lindera benzoin).

The woodland garden in spring(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
The woodland garden in mid-May

Some of the plants we look forward to (besides bloodroot and columbine) are trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), false solomon's seal (Smilacina stellata), miterwort (Mitella diphylla), foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia), bluebells (Mertensia virginica), merry bells (Uvularia grandiflora), and others.

Of course, we have only a few plants of some of these species, such as miterwort, but it's all the more reason for getting out there on my hands and knees to appreciate the ones we have. And the teeny-tiny snowflake-like flowers of miterwort can be appreciated in no other way.