Spring ephemeral describes a life cycle of perennial woodland wildflowers which develop aerial parts (i.e. stems, leaves, and flowers) of the plant early each spring and then quickly bloom, produce seed and then go summer dormant. Some of the plants included in this group are Tulipa, Narcissus, Eranthis, Galanthus, Trillium, Anemone, Frillaria, Crocus, Cyclamen, Erythronium, Iris, Corydalis, Muscari and Cardamine.
Trillium ovatum in the woods at Old goat Farm
They have become some of my favorite plants in the garden. Years ago, while working at the Miller Garden, I developed an interest in these type plants. Mrs. Miller had planted heavily for fall interest but also had some wonderful spring plants. We decided we would give the garden more spring interest by really punching it up with spring ephemerals. I naturally started to do at home what I did at work and now have many in my own garden. They help to start the season early and really fill in between other plants. It’s all just part of my no bare earth policy. I like to use them between some of the later perennials. The spring ephemerals come up early and bloom then the other plants come out covering up the dying foliage and occupy the same space. You don’t have to clean them up much. It all just gets recycled, great compost. They also work well beneath deciduous trees and shrubs. There is plenty of light until the woody plants leaf out and that is about the time the spring ephemerals go dormant. This is how they often occur in the wild.
Gardening in the northwest is almost a year round activity. There is a bit of down time between Thanksgiving and Christmas but that seems to be about it. A few of the early spring ephemerals such as Galanthus and Eranthis start blooming just after the first of the year. This group of plants give you something to look forward to on those cold winter days. It’s exciting to walk through the garden and see a little bit of green poking up. By March and into April the garden really starts to explode. Old Goat Farm has a number of the spring ephemerals so next time we are open come on out and see which ones you’d like to add to your own garden.
Galanthus (snowdrops) at the Chase Garden
Iris Katherine Hodkins