At the time of writing this, it’s officially spring. While it might not quite feel like it outside yet, warmer weather is on the horizon, and the days are already brighter for longer periods of time. The ground may still be a little hard, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t think about what’s going to be gracing your garden this year. In fact, we think that now is the perfect time to think about some of our favourite early bloomers that we grow here at St. Williams. Plants like Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) not only bloom early but have practical applications in your garden, like acting as a great border or edge plant, so it pays to think about adding them to your next project. If you’re like us and can’t wait to get back outside and get to gardening, then consider one (or a few) of the following species when planning your spring planting.
You may have seen Sullivant’s Milkweed featured in this month’s Species Profile as our Species of the Month. One of the reasons this plant was singled out, is that it’s relatively early-blooming, and easily grown. Once it begins to blossom, Sullivant’s Milkweed produces beautiful pink flowers that just scream springtime. It’s the perfect addition to your spring project, and pairs up well with grasses like Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Canada Wild Rye (Elymus canadensis), or Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans).
Speaking of practical applications, we aren’t the only ones that love this plant. It’s a favourite of pollinators as well, which – as we’ve previously pointed out – is incredibly important. Planting some Sullivant’s Milkweed in your garden this spring will not only add a dash of season appropriate pink but will aid you in doing your part to protect our precious pollinator population.
Another of our favourite early bloomers is the Wild Strawberry. This flowering herbaceous perennial will start to bloom in the late spring and will continue to spread by creeping stolons (horizontal stems) all summer. Typically, Wild Strawberry is found in patches in open fields, waste places, and dry openings. This pretty little plant blooms into a gorgeous white flower with a healthy dose of yellow in its pistil.
Wild Strawberry is an excellent groundcover species and provides a beautiful carpet of foliage. Once the plant is established, it can be successful in crowding out weeds and other invasive species. Additionally, Wild Strawberry can be used for naturalizing and woodland gardens, and as we mentioned before, is perfect for border edging. As if these weren’t enough practical applications, you may have guessed that a plant named ‘Wild Strawberry’ produces something edible, and you’d be right. Fragaria virginiana does produce a small, tasty strawberry which can be ingested by humans and animals alike. It’s not uncommon to see various birds, squirrels, and chipmunks enjoying the fruit. Plus, the Wild Strawberry is another pollinator preferred plant.
Wild Geranium is a plant that you’ll certainly want to keep in mind when planning your spring garden project. This plant practically begs for sunny days with its colours that range from pale to deep-pink, and in some cases, lilac to deep-purple. Wild Geranium is a tough plant that will adapt to many growing conditions, but it’s recommended that it’s planted with plenty of organic matter to emulate its natural woodland or forest conditions to help it properly flourish.
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) is an excellent groundcover plant and it performs best in partly shaded areas of border gardens. We think you’ll agree that its beautiful and light spring colours allow it to pair perfectly with other early bloomers in your garden, including…
The beautiful Wild Columbine will add not only a unique colour to your garden, but a unique shape as well. This early blooming and easily grown flower blooms in a range of colours from light pink to red with a splash of yellow (a variety of spring colours), and blooms into drooping, bell-like flower. The plant almost resembles a crown and will surely be the king (or queen) of your spring project or garden. Not to mention, Wild Columbine has a wide-range of soil tolerance, and freely self-seeds. In optimum growing conditions, it will form large colonies.
Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is capable of withstanding dry soil and drought. If the elements are uncooperative and out of your control, then this tough little plant can keep on living. It also tolerates deer and rabbits, so there’s not much that can keep this species down. But how about adding a little something extra to your garden? Wild Columbine is known to attract hummingbirds, who are not only adorable to watch feed, but because of their long beaks and small bodies, can pollinate long-tubed flowers that other birds can’t. Plus, hummingbirds feed on insects as well as nectar, which can help keep your garden pest-free.
There’s nothing quite like spring weather when it comes to getting your garden going. Actual planting time may be a few weeks away, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t start your planning right now, and when you’re putting your plans together, be sure to keep some of these species in mind. In addition to bringing your garden those beautiful spring colours, they’ve each got practical applications to make your garden more than just a pretty sight. From making distinct borders in your garden, to helping pollinators survive, each of these early bloomers have something unique to offer your garden.