There are more glimpses of green foliage around the garden now that spring is here. We had a good thunderstorm, that helped wash away almost all of the snow piles. The rain also cleaned the perennial leaves that had emerged early from under the melted snow, and I’m sure it will encourage the growth of new sprouts. The sounds of pouring rain, mixing with the crash of thunder and flashes of lightening, are a welcome signal of a new, more exciting season. Spring has arrived.
As I started my spring gardening, the Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’ stand out as the most prominent plant of the early spring. These perennials emerged from under the snow with almost all of the foliage in excellent shape, well before the first bulbs. I think the consistent snow cover we get kept them in good shape. The patch of 6 hellebore are clearly visible from across the yard and from the house, rising up from the fallen tree leaves. As the snow melted, it left dusty water spots on the Helleborus leaves. I was almost tempted to wash them off, to help them look their best, but Nature was a better housekeeper than me. It sent a rainstorm to wash them clean, and now they gleam in the sunlight. When the willow tree leaves appear, this bed will be back to mostly shady.
In addition to the well preserved foliage from last fall, new Helleborus sprouts are growing. The recent growth was in suspended animation for the past week, but now it is unfurling, and showing miniature leaves in tiny groups of five.
Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Grenadin’ (carnations) are another perennial that were already displaying green leaves when the snow melted. This plant doesn’t seem to have any problems with the cold. I’ve had these for 3 or 4 years, so I should take some cuttings to keep them going, as Dianthus are usually short lived. The grayish green foliage of the carnation looks great right past frost, but the wonderfully scented pink flowers are my favourite trait.
The dwarf Campanula (bellflowers) are showing plenty of green too. I found some more left-over blue flowers on another type of bellflower, the Campanula rotundifolia (harebells). I’m still amazed that the blue colour of these flowers could have lasted for 5 months under the snow. It was a welcome surprise to see the vivid colour against the backdrop of earth tones.
The Asarum europaeum (European ginger) have mostly kept their leaves too, except the ones that I planted late last fall. The ginger that were planted early last season are green, despite the ice around them. The leaves are very thick, which is a good trait for surviving the cold. This perennial is starting to show the shiny texture that makes it so appealing. The extra glossy Asarum looks especially good in the shade. In the early spring light, this groundcover gets to reflect some sunlight, before the trees casts their shade.
The Aruncus dioicus (goatsbeard) is showing its first new shoot. Although it is only a cm (less than an inch) tall right now in early spring, in two months it will tower at 2 m (6 feet). This shade perennial will send up a number of stems, and will spread out about 1.5 m (4 feet), looking more like a shrub. It’s a good thing the Astilbe and Convallaria (lily of the valley) around it don’t care about the shade it casts.
Here is my favourite tree in the garden, the willow. You can see by the tangle of branches, that it has not been tamed much by pruning, and is more of a free range tree. When it leafs out in May, it makes a wall of green in this corner of the garden. I adore the intricate pattern of branches, the way it whips around in the wind, and how it shades a good part of my garden. I have a hard time spotting the birds when the tree is in full leaf, but I can hear them busy within.
The ground underneath the tree is a tangle of branches too, like the crown. My first spring gardening job on Friday was to pick up the winter’s accumulation of fallen twigs. You can see hints of green from the Asarum europaeum (European ginger), half buried in the brown tree leaves near the birdbath.
As I worked in the garden for the last 2 days, an army of ladybugs kept me company. Frequently, when I turned a leaf, or trimmed away dead foliage, a little red speck would be slowly plodding along the edge of it. Since there were hundreds crawling everywhere, I carefully shook out each piece of debris removed from a garden bed. The garden could benefit from every voracious aphid-eating machine it can get.
This is the seven spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata). They are not native to Alberta, but were imported to North America from Europe.
Even in spring, we can still have some good snowfall. Last year we had about 30 cm (a foot) in the third week of April, as the first garden photo shows. I imagine the ladybugs crawl back under any remaining leaf litter when that happens.
The signs of spring are everywhere in the garden, from the fresh green foliage, to red tipped sprouts, to black spotted ladybugs. I’m finally able to do more than poke around the garden, investigating small bare areas. I spent the last two days cleaning up the garden beds, stretching, bending, and noticing each new sign of growth. As I work around the yard, I’m picturing how I’ll extend a corner bed, and pondering the new shade plants I might put there. Are you making plans as you work in the garden?