Native Spring Shows – FineGardening

It’s Joseph in Northern Indiana here today. As spring arrives, so many of our gardens are full of daffodils and tulips and other examples of spring-blooming species from around the world that I thought I’d take a moment to celebrate the spring bloomers that are native to my part of the world. The woodlands of the eastern half of North America are full of native spring-blooming wildflowers that just don’t get as much appreciation in gardens as some of the European species we’re all so familiar with.

This little wildflower is called purple cress (Cardamine douglassii, Zones 4–8). Native to a wide swath of eastern North America, it blooms in spring with these wonderful clouds of pink flowers. Like so many early spring bloomers, it then goes dormant and disappears for the summer.

Where purple cress is happy, it makes a great carpet of flowers. I’ve never seen it growing in gardens, though I’m not sure why. I want to try it this year if I can find a source.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis, Zones 3–8) is such a beautiful native spring bloomer—though the flowers last SUCH a short time that it isn’t always the best garden plant. But I love seeing it in the wild when I manage to catch it in flower.

Sometimes trout lily (Erythronium americanum, Zones 2–8) is mostly just leaves, but some forms flower heavily, and when they do, they’re as beautiful as any daffodil or tulip.

Of course, I have to include great white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum, Zones 2–8), which is such a beautiful native wildflower. It is easy to grow in a normal shade garden, just as long as you can protect it from deer.

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides, Zones 4–8) looks so delicate with almost ferny foliage and clouds of white flowers. But it is a tough little plant, thriving in even difficult shady sites with great spring flowers before going dormant in the summer.

Dutchman’s britches (Dicentra cucullaria, Zones 3–7) grows from tiny bulbs that give it its other common name of “squirrel corn.” I love the whimsical little flowers and ferny foliage.

Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica, Zones 3–9) lives up to its name, with its clouds of small pink flowers. In the wild and in gardens it will spread to form big carpets where it is happy.


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