April 2020: Spring Planting

Bloodroot is one of the earliest native ephemerals.

Among the earliest spring bloomers in New England are the maples (Acer spp.), particularly silver maples (Acer saccharinum). We don’t generally think of these large canopy trees as flowers, but nonetheless, they persist in blooming on cold spring days year after year. They’re neither large nor flashy, nothing we’d think of purposely planting in a butterfly garden, but they provide an important source of nectar and pollen for emerging pollinators. 

Swamp maples (Acer rubrum) are in bloom in this area around the end of March and beginning of April. You can see their tiny, red buds if you look up into their branches. 

There is also the skunk cabbage, which you can read more about here.

However, if you’re looking for more native spring bloomers for your garden, definitely try: 

  • bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis); 
  • Roundlobe hepatica (Hepatica nobilis); 
  • Virginia spring beauty (Claytonia virginica); 
  • Violets (Viola spp.);
  • fringed bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia); 
  • Purple or White Trillium (Trillium spp);
  • Canada anemone (Anemone canadensis);
  • foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia);
  • wild geranium (Geranium maculatum);
  • Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium caeruleum);
  • herb Robert (Geranium robertianum);
  • and bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora). 

Looking for flashier garden knockouts? Try:

  • yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum); 
  • pinxter azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides); 
  • woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata);
  • red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis); 
  • Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia and also the Connecticut state flower);
  • golden Alexander (Ziziea aurea);
  • and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica). 

Some of these are spring ephemerals with fleeting blooms, but when you plant them in succession and in drifts for the garden, you’ll have flowering through all of springtime!

Want something unique for your garden? Try:

  • maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum); 
  • mayapple (Podophyllum pedatum), and 
  • jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum). 

Mayapple is a particularly delightful umbrella shaped plant that grows a fruit. Mayapple jelly can be made from this fruit – but don’t try to eat it while it’s green! 

And what about small, flowering trees? Eastern redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are particularly beautiful, as is serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis). Both are popular with pollinators, and serviceberry grows a fruit loved by birds and edible to humans. 

One last thing: let those dandelions grow in the lawn! They provide an early source of nectar for pollinators. Plus, they’re cheerful little flowers for an otherwise monotonous expanse of green.

Happy planting!