Flowers Make Spring Sing
By Dee Nash
We’re part of a big family, and Easter has been my favorite holiday to host our relatives. When I plant bulbs, pansies and violas in fall, I am always speculating how I can make the prettiest show for Easter Sunday.
Still, Easter is tricky. It’s a moveable feast. That means it isn’t a set holiday in the calendar year. If you’d like to read how the date for Easter Sunday is determined, the Royal Museums of Greenwich have an answer that I still don’t understand. Even without the formula, you probably noted Easter is very early some years, and in other years, extremely late. I’m not a math or astronomy whiz so I rely upon my smart phone for the date.
Then, there’s the weather. Oklahoma weather is always changeable. The last couple of years we’ve had warm winters followed by long and cool springs perfect for ephemerals and other delicacies. However, in 2009, every bulb made an early appearance, and each tree leafed out too soon. We had a freeze in late March, exceptional only because it was very deep and long lasting. Everything suffered. I had to strip dead leaves from branches before trees and shrubs leafed out a second time. In the middle south, spring can be anxious and exciting.
Bulbs are a huge part of my plans. I consider my color scheme in August and September and order bulbs from a couple of different suppliers. If you order early, you aren’t charged until shipping, but you’re assured of getting the biggest and best. The bigger and healthier the bulb, the better the flower. Plan for early, mid and late blooming varieties and try something new like theseHyacinthus orientalis var. albulus(Roman or French hyacinths) below.
I have a “thing” for orange and purple spring flower combinations, and they’re easy to create with flame orange ‘Temple’s Favourite’ and ‘Prinses Irene’ tulips. Add purple violas or pansies as complementary accents. ‘Maytime’ and ‘Purple Prince’ are tulips worth growing too.
Here’s a tiny cheat on the Easter season. If you forget to plant tulips, or if rodents eat them, try your local grocery store. Many carry partially forced bulbs. Use them to cover your garden’s bare spots, and no one will ever know. To get the best bang for your buck, cluster bulbs close to your front door and rehab winter-weary containers to welcome your guests.
You aren’t limited to bulbs though. Many trees, including those that bear fruit, bloom heavily in spring. I bought Royal Raindrops® crabapples a few years ago because they have persistent small fruit that won’t litter your lawn, along with fantastic purple leaves. These little trees sit in my upper pasture along a curved country road. One day, I hope they will be splendid enough to stop traffic.
Deciduous magnolias are also spring showoffs. Sometimes their blooms are spoiled by late freezes, but in the good years, they are perfection. Mine smells lovely too. I’m now hooked on yellow varieties, and I’ve been keeping an eye out for one to bring home.
There are so many spring-blooming trees and shrubs to consider, but I have my favorites. Forsythia may be one of the earliest bloomers, but let’s expand our horizons. What about witch hazels and their friends, or Edgeworthia chrysantha, paper bush, for an early Easter? Later in the season, we have fragrant lilacs, and Bloomerang® even reblooms.
The newer cultivars of redbuds, are exquisite. I planted Cercis canadensisThe Rising Sun™ two springs ago in a sheltered spot next to our driveway. It’s just now coming into its own.
For more spring flowers, consider blue and purple Phlox divaricata (woodland phlox) orP. subulata (creeping phlox) that go great with everything, including hellebores. I find lighter colored hellebores show up better in my garden although I still love darker varieties up close.
Easter may move about, and spring weather may not always cooperate, but with so many flowers from which to choose, it’s possible to create an extended bloom period. Just be willing to try new things and plan for early, mid and late spring.