April 25, 2019

Welcome to April! May we take your coat?

Alright, maybe you should hold onto those coats for just a little while longer; the frost-free date around us isn't for another few weeks, after all. But luckily, most perennials don't mind a bit of freezing weather as they start to re-emerge...and they look so cute as they start to grow for the year! It's always incredible to see perennials getting their start for the year--it's almost like a magic trick how they can grow to their full size all over again each summer, but of course this is what they were storing up energy for all last year!

It's incredible that Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata) can go from shoots to big, showy blooms in a single month, but such is the nature of spring blooms. The two pictures above were taken two short weeks from each other, and by early May, these irises will be blooming!!

Because we work with plants every day, I think we get some license to gush about spring. Seeing everything resprout, leaf out, start to bloom...there's a reason they call it 'spring green,' and it's such a relief to see things growing after the long winter! Something we pride ourselves on at Toadshade is that we grow all our plants outside and keep them outside even during the winter, so they're all in natural sync with the progression of seasons. This means that they sprout and bloom when...they should! You won't see fully regrown plants mere storm, but you also won't see any frost-shocked plants; nothing's sadder than a plant that's been tricked into thinking it's summertime suddenly finding itself experiencing a hard freeze. Keeping our plants outside is better not only for the plants, but also for the environment (more on that in a minute)! Our plants re-emerge while experiencing everything the spring has to throw at them, so you can rest assured that there isn't much that can startle them, weather-wise! They'll keep on growing regardless, and bloom right on time for the pollinators who rely on them.

When we photographed the same Giant Goldenrods (Solidago gigantea) last fall, they were really the place to be for pollinators! Butterflies like this American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), and native bees like the little green fellow in the back were all hard at work pollinating and enjoying late-season nectar!

So what can I expect from these early-spring sprouts?

Great things! Sometimes in the spring when we talk about plants "coming up" at different times, people think we're talking about seeds germinating and sprouting into seedlings. But because these plants are all resprouting from last year's established roots, they'll be quick out of the gate and will soon look like the mature plants they are--if they were seedlings, they would have to devote a lot of their growing energy to their root system, but resprouting plants have already taken care of that! There's a certain advantage to not having to start from scratch every year, and perennials have evolved to take advantage of this.

Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) makes a beautiful clustered display of blooms in the summer, but it's equally fun to watch it resprout in the spring. What a difference a few weeks in April can make!

Those same Woodland Sunflowers (Helianthus divaricatus) put on quite a show last summer!

Happy Gardening!

The Halberd-Leaf Rosemallow (Hibiscus laevis) is just starting to sprout, but by midsummer, it can grow as tall as a person. There's something wild and fun about seeing tiny sprouts, knowing that they'll bloom this gloriously in just a few months!

Randi V.W. Eckel, PhD