I bet you know that watermelon is a summer fruit and squash ripens in the fall. In general, we're much more educated about seasonal food. The local food movement has taken off as chefs highlight what's fresh on their menus.
But do you know what's seasonal in the world of flowers? I've often heard florists moan about brides looking for peonies in November. Surely not! As the local flower movement takes off, seasonality is part of its beautiful essence. The constraint of what's available in each season is what makes those flowers so special.
Not only is the general season fun to know, but knowing the sequence of flowers as they bloom within that season has been eye-opening. Each flower has its preference climate and when it's time, it's time! I witnessed this beautifully the first spring on my land when I was in awe of the beauty that sprung up one after another!
So here's a little primer for you on specifically KC's spring flowers. It's applicable to similar growing areas in zone 6. Let's focus first on February-April. Of course, I'll share how to use them as cut flowers because that's how I think. Ok, it probably applies everywhere, but the timing I'll share is specific to here. We are considered growing zone 6a here.
First up, crocuses! These short cuties are the first to pop their little heads out of the ground like an alarm clock telling us spring is almost here--usually late February.
When I was in Chicago, there was a field of crocuses that felt like a welcome mat for spring. It was a huge relief because winter was no fun up there! These are best left in the ground to enjoy, but you can force them with other bulbs for a fun indoor garden.
Then comes the hellebores or Lenten Roses. These beauties are starting to gain popularity as hybrids come out with rich, gorgeous colors, ruffly doubles, and heads that look more up than down. Bonus, if you pick them after the pollen drops and the pods form, they last forever although the colors become less vibrant. These can bloom as early as Christmas, but the hybrids seems to come later. I wish I could get hundreds of these as the palm-like foliage is also lovely and deer resistant.
Faithful daffodils come next. We all know the classic yellow trumpets, but did you know there are dozens more? They are simply stunning and they smell so fresh. Totally classy with soft apricots or little frou-frou centers. They ooze sap when you pull (yes, pull rather than cut from the base)--but that's the same reason deer NEVER mess with daffodils. If you know my struggles, you know this is a love language. Pull them when their little heads bend over and look like a goose. They look super tight, but will open beautifully for you inside. We all need to show daffs more love. They deserve it!
Daffs are followed by (drumroll).....TULIPS. April is for tulips. These all bloom in a 3-4 week period depending on the variety which is why flower farmers look tired in April. You can have early, mid, and late blooms. The singles are the earliest. The parrots are the latest.
If you thought your head was spinning from the daffodil choices out there, it will simply explode when you see how many tulips there are. You see the single, brightly colored tulips everywhere in the spring and they're fun. But DID YOU KNOW that there is SO MUCH MORE??
I'm talking is-that-a-peony tulip, look-at-my-jazz-hands tulip, look-at-this-color tulip. It is truly jaw-dropping. The only downside is that deer love them so you have to protect them, but it is worth it because a locally grown tulip picked at the right stage will last nearly 2+ weeks. I kid you not. You could grow ten different tulips for twenty years and still not experience them all. How fun is that? There's even one that looks like an ice cream cone--with ice cream on top!
At the same time as the tulips, little muscari or grape hyacinth come on the scene. These can naturalize quite easily and I've seen it landscaped to look like a river with daffs as the banks. So pretty. These cuties are also pulled rather than cut and are adorable in mini vases and fabulous in wearables like corsages and boutonnieres. Again, there are so many choices now with colors that you could play with the palette. (Side note: don't dry these. The little bells crumble everywhere and you'll have quite the mess.)
I don't want to forget about pansies when we're talking about spring. These flowers might be under-appreciated cool season flowers because they are in every store as bedding plants, but they love cool weather and pump out colorful blooms for a long time like all annuals.
These are making a comeback as cut flowers and have some amazing colors. If you plant them close together, they will stretch up to compete for sun and give you bouquet length stems. Bonus: they're edible! Decorate bakes goods with them, sprinkle them on a salad, or freeze them for a botanical ice cube.
Did you know poppies are a cool season flower? I always thought it looked like summer when Dorothy and her friends fell asleep in a field of poppies on her way to Oz. That was misinformation.
Poppy seeds are tiny. Think about your bagel. Starting them indoors can be tricky, but you can toss them in the ground and cover them lightly with fabric so the birds don't eat them. Keep them moist. Keep them moist and they will sprout when the time is right and give you these amazing crepe paper like blooms that are utterly enchanting.
The stems are often wonky making them even more fully of character. Icelandic poppies are best for cutting if you cut them when the pod crack just splits open. Other varieties like breadseed poppies, Shirley poppies, or california poppies are best left outside to enjoy and even to turn into pods. These will reseed readily. Deer don't really mess with these either!
The dogwood trees then flower which makes me very happy. Their simple four-petal blooms and graceful branches look like a dance to me. My tree is young, but when I prune it in order to shape it, I bring the cuttings inside and pair them with my other spring blooms. Redbuds are also blooming and adds a nice pink touch to spring's dominant color of yellow.
The viburnum are next. It took me a couple of years to figure out which variety I had. They ended up being Korean Spice Viburnum. Hey, I'm Korean, so it felt like the land and I were meant to be. While these are obviously not native, they put out flower heads that starts out a beautiful rusty pink and open into the most delicious smelling thing ever. Other flowering shrubs bloom in spring like lilacs and deutzia. Last year, I discovered a mock orange bush that was free enough of weeds to flower! It was like winning the lottery. Of course, there is the ubiquitous forsythia that sends out its long arching, slender branches with bright yellow florets. These are indestructible. I've tried.
Not only are shrubs good for flowers, but you can use them as foliage too. You know the stick-like things you get in grocery store bouquets? Those are shrub cuttings Try experimenting with adding in cuttings to your bouquets. I love the texture and movement they add.
Speaking of foliage, mint starts growing again as does the oregano. Herbs are fantastic in bouquets and can add that lovely fragrance.
The gentle fragrance of spring flowers is one of my favorite features. I didn't know that many of these flowers had fragrance until I started growing them. Imported flowers have either been out of water for so long that there is no fragrance or they have been genetically modified out of them. What a shame! Fragrance and flowers are peanut butter and jelly, but better.
I haven't added things like anemones and ranunculus here because they are not native to the midwest and need a lot of help to grow here, but they are indeed early spring flowers. It also helps if it isn't 80 degrees in April like it is this year.
These blooms come in primarily March and April. I was going to do all of spring in one post, but it's too much. Next up will be late spring--May and June--and everyone's favorite, peonies.
Have I missed anything that you love in the early spring flowers category? Let me know if I need to add something to this list. I love spring flowers. There's not better way to celebrate winter's departure than these seasonal beauties.