Many of early spring’s first flowers are tiny and must be sought out and looked at in close inspection. Personally it is my favorite time of year, each new bud, each new voice, and each new sighting of the season a cause for celebration!
The first butterflies have emerged from hibernation and Eastern Commas could be seen visiting crocus in the gardens today (along with an abundance of honeybees). The Spring Peepers, Western Chorus Frogs and leopard frogs were all voicing their approval en masse at the warm weather that has returned. New birds include Eastern Phoebe, an insect eater, so you know spring is here! The American Woodcocks are also back and carrying on at dusk with their outrageous flight display of almost alien sounds.
The Parrotia or Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) has flower buds that are about to open. Though small, their fiery stamens contrast exquisitely with their furry brown bud scales. Look for 3 Parrotia trees south of the Rock & Waterfall trolley stop. The middle tree has the remnants of last summer’s Yellow-billed Cuckoo nest.
The locally native American Hazelnut (Corylus americana) is also in bloom. The male flowers are exquisite dangling catkins that shed pollen to the wind. Subtle but look close at the arrangement of each.
Yes the red “spider” is a flower: the tiny female flowers of the American Hazelnut. This captures the pollen to produce the nut that is so delicious. Look carefully along the twigs of the hazelnut to spot a flower. Squirrels get almost all our hazelnuts and look for them in the Rock & Waterfall Garden where the trail to the trolley stop leaves the main path through the garden.
The first Cornelian-cherry Dogwoods (Cornus mas) also are in flower in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. The tiny bunches of yellow flowers are quite showy in abundance. Make sure to try the tart red fruit late this summer. We will have a major collection of varieties of this plant in the Heartland Harvest Garden. The fruit are very popular for culinary uses in Eastern Europe where the small tree is native.
A closeup of Snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii) reveals the flowers in more detail. I really like the green inner segments, surrounded by white outer segments. I don’t know why they are called segments and not petals and sepals! Snowdrops are in the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae).
Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is really coming into bloom and opens fully on sunny days. Remember, it is actually still winter!
The first “big” blooms of the season are always the Daffodill ‘Rjnveld’s Early Sensation’ (Narcissus Trumpet Division). I always tell people with spring fever to plant this great bulb! It has bloomed as early as late January but this year has held off until now. Ahhhhhhh. Look for these daffodils at the Perennial Garden trolley stop and in the Rock & Waterfall Garden.
The weekend looks like it will be mild so be sure and come out to walk the gardens and see the tiny treasures of early spring. There are many Genera of plants now in bloom outdoors but the best displays are on the Island Garden and in the Rock & Waterfall Garden.