Appreciate (But Don’t Pick) the Spring Ephemerals

South Sound spring ephemerals begin blooming the minute the temperature starts warming up, i.e. right now. Spring ephemeral plants are just as the name implies. They bloom for a short time and then disappear (go dormant) until next spring. They disappear above, but their roots continue to grow like mad. Their appearance may be fleeting, but nothing is more appreciated after a cold, rainy winter than a few pops of color, and a sign that the weather is changing.

Pacific Trillium

Whatever you call it — Wake Robin, Toadshade or Western Trillium — our native Trillium ovatum is one early spring bloom that everyone knows. It’s the one with three pure-white petals above three dark-green leaves. Coming upon a drift of them in a woodland setting is an unforgettable experience. Some beliefs surround the home cultivation of our native Trillium. Some true, some not.

  1. Don’t pick Trilliums. True. All of their energy for next year is tied up in the flower… picking sets it way back.
  2. Don’t dig Trillium plants in the wild. True.
  3. Trillium can’t be moved or divided. False. If you get a big enough clump of soil, they transplant fine. Wait until June to do it, though.
  4. It takes seven years to get a bloom from seed. False. It takes four, which is still a long time!
  5. Trillium are difficult to grow. False. They thrive in a woodland-like setting. Think shade, moisture, and rich native soil.

TIP: Trillium can be found at garden stores now, thanks to an interest in native plant gardening.

Wood Anemone

Wood Anemone

Susanne Nilsson via flickr

Wood anemone flowers (Anemone nemorosa) look as delicate as lace, but they’re as tough as nails. They make a beautiful spring groundcover at only 4 inches tall and pack a powerful color punch when massed. The flowers are white (single and double), lavender, pink, or “almost” blue with dark-green foliage. They are extremely easy to grow and have the same needs as Trillium: shade, moisture, and rich native soil. They make great partners! Wood anemones are easier to get into drifts. You can divide and replant. These are also much easier to find now.

The English Flower Garden

Courtesy Amazon

Learn More

The English Flower Garden by William Robinson is a classic. Originally published in 1883, the reprints are in the 15th and final edition, the last one approved by the author. It should be on every perennial gardener’s shelf for its charm and its “never goes out of style” advice. It has black-and-white line drawings and photographs and more than 700 pages covering everything a self-respecting 19th-century English flower gardener should know, and it informs 21st century gardeners as well. The Amaryllis Press, $35.

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