Dreaming of Spring

It is snowing again. Right now there are at least 9 inches with no sign of slowing this afternoon. Record cold temperatures are in the forecast for the next few days. We are miles away from spring and gratefully plants have not broken dormancy so the snow isn't too much of a curse (yet). But since I've been stuck inside working on a massive project to name my entire library of plant photographs from the last five years, I keep coming across colorful reminders of what is to come. Going through pretty garden photos is keeping me sane. 

I thought I would like to pretend as if it's March, snow free and above 40 degrees, and highlight a few spring woodland plants in my garden that will soon emerge. Call me impatient, but I need a little color today. Here are some cheerful scenes from the past few years of what I have to look forward to, hopefully as soon as this latest winter weather passes.

Pulmonarias have been beginning poking their heads up. This, from March a year or so ago, is Pulmonaria 'Benediction' with its reliably pretty blue flowers and spotted foliage.

This is the foliage of Pulmonaria 'Little Star' with more speckling on its leaves.

An immature but pretty Pulmonaria saccharata 'Argentifolia' has a lot of silver on its leaves. In time its leaves should get fairly large, creating a bright silver spot in my woodland garden.

Uvularia perfoliata, merrybells, is a North American native woodland plant. It is clump-forming and goes dormant in summer when super dry, but foliage on mine has persisted well into autumn. It reaches about 12" tall and has interesting "pierced" foliage by the stem, hence the species name.

Anemone nemorosa 'Flore Pleno', wood anemone, will spread to form colonies in time. It too goes dormant when temperatures rise.

Anemone 'Black and White' from Floret Farms is early to bloom. Right now its foliage is already up but there's a while yet before I see flowers.

Ribes sanguineum is our native flowering currant. It is primarily a dark pink color although it varies in shades of pink. Right now my many plants only have leaf buds, there is a long way to go before I see these beauties (and the hummingbirds claim them). They are multi-stemmed deciduous shrubs/small trees and are fairly easy going.

Another Ribes sanguineum with much paler flowers.  

A white flowered selection, R. 'White Icicle' is a favorite.

Ribes x gordonianum is a cross between Ribes odoratum (below) and R. sanguineum (above). Its flower color reads as coral from a distance, but upon closer inspection they are deep pink on the outer sides of the flowers and pale yellow within.

Ribes aureum, golden currant, blooms a little later than the sanguineum forms. Its flowers are clove scented, an absolute delight.

A favorite for sure is Jeffersonia diphylla, twinleaf. Check out those leaves! Native to eastern North America, it is an unusual clump forming perennial that goes dormant in summer in my garden.

Here is a blurry photo of the flower, I haven't been able to get a good one, it seems. Every spring when it emerges in a bit of gravel in my shade garden I am so happy. It's kind of delicate in the flowers will fall apart with the slightest breeze.

A rather common but cheerful Corydalis lutea has seeded in about three areas in my shade garden. As a matter of fact its foliage is trying to emerge right now, but this snow will certainly slow that down.

Brunnera foliage is up in my garden, but it will be a while before they look like this. So cheerful and easy, the forget-me-not flowers add a bright note to a lot of surrounding foliage in the woodland garden. This is Brunnera macrophylla 'Garden Candy Sea Heart'.

Dicentra formosa var. oregana ‘Langtrees’ is a native bleeding heart with white flowers and silverish foliage. It spreads politely, though not enough for my tastes as I really love this little plant.

Here is its cousin, Dicentra formosa in my local park. This is a spreader as reported by friends who have it in their gardens. Still, a sweet native I enjoy spying in the park.

The over-the-top flowers of Primula 'Gold Laced', although not really my color palette, are super cheerful and I do love them. Their foliage, as well as several other primulas, is emerging from their dormancy which is exciting.

It will be a long while for the epimediums to flower. Isn't this a pretty one? Epimedium 'Amber Queen' has rather large flowers on long wiry stems. A favorite for certain.

Erythronium revolutum, coast fawn lily, is another sweet native ephemeral woodland plant. It goes dormant in summer once its soil dries.

Thalictrum thalictroides, syn. Anemonella thalictroides is another of our East Coast natives preferring a slightly drier environment than many other woodland plants. It goes dormant in summer so its spring presence is extra special to me. 

A little native tiarella, this is Tiarella trifoliata, though sold to me as Tiarella trifoliata var. unifoliata. Experts can please weigh in, but my money's on trifoliata. It is quite small, spreads slowly but is a charming native plant I would love more of. I initially pictured a whole sea of this in my woodland garden, but sadly it hasn't spread as my imagination wished it to.

Maianthemum stellatum, another native plant in my local park. I have this in my woodland garden too, but it tends to get swallowed up by surrounding plants. If it receives enough summer water it persists for a long time, but I find it usually goes dormant in my garden by autumn.

Maianthemum racemosum, false Solomon's seal is a larger flowered version of M. stellatum. This native is also widespread in woodland settings here in the Pacific Northwest.

Continuing on in my local park, I don't know violets very well but I had Viola glabella for a long time in my garden (it disappeared....likely too dry) and I am thinking this is the same. If so, another native woodland perennial, this one spreads by seeds. It prefers very wet soil, its common name is streambank violet.

Lithophragma parviflorum, small-flowered prairie star as seen in my local park in April a couple of years ago. 

The quinces have big flower buds but are not showing any color yet. This Chaenomeles x superba 'Hollandia' is a favorite for its rich color. It's been very slow-growing, but worth it.

Pachyphragma macrophyllum should be blooming by now but it has a long way to go. It is usually the first flower to bloom in late winter. It is a lovely little perennial, seeding around much like Corydalis lutea does and has pretty much evergreen basal foliage.

Cardamine trifolia is evergreen and has by now grown into a nice-sized clump (for a demure little thing, that is). I look forward to these sweet white flowers soon. 

Ipheion uniflorum, a bulbous plant is also one of the first to bloom in late winter. I remember seeing these flowers as some of the first in the greenhouses at Joy Creek Nursery to bloom. The first time I saw them I got so excited, it still gives a thrill as I will always associate it with Joy Creek. While this little beauty has a long way before it flowers in my garden, at least I can look at photos from last year.

There's a snapshot of some woodland and shade garden flowers in my garden and also my local park. Thank you for indulging me in a little daydreaming; I believe it's good for the soul. Here's hoping for milder weather for us all and please, let it be spring soon! And please, do let me know what topics hold interest for you. If this nasty weather continues, there won't be many "around the garden" posts any time soon so I'm open to suggestions, thank you!

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, we do love hearing from the cool plant people all over the world and what you are up to! Happy gardening!


  1. Looking forward into spring is a great mood booster for a gardeners. We're experiencing something of a throwback into winter too. We had hail this morning!

    1. I saw that - and snow in the Santa Cruz mountains? Whoa! We're in for another round this weekend. Hold on to your hats.

  2. Our predicted snow mostly went north of us. We got just enough to protect things from the cold and enough to make the garden look beautiful. I have thought about getting that Primula 'Gold Laced' but the photos all looked like the flowers barely rose about the foliage. Yours is lovely and the stems tall enough to make me rethink adding one to my garden.

    1. Ah, Linda, that sounds about perfect (weather). Yes, the Primula 'Gold Laced' - its flowers do project far above the foliage, it's wonderful and what makes this plant especially attractive (to me). I would encourage you to try it! It's in heavy wet soil with a little sun and loves it, apparently.

  3. It's the time of year when all of our thoughts (in cold regions anyway) are on when will Spring arrive. I commend you for organizing all of your photos. A huge undertaking but it will be satisfying once it's completed. Something on my task list as well that I never get to. Thanks for the little journey into Spring. We are in an Arctic freeze so very nice to be reminded Spring is not that far away.

    1. It is that time of the year and I for one say it every year. I sound like a broken record! When will spring get here? On a 15 degree night in late February (a bit unusual for us) I'm ready for 50 degrees. The photo project is great, daunting, but will save me a lot of time in the future. I just pluck away at it an hour or two at a time. I hope your Arctic freeze subsides and you have spring around the corner as well!

  4. Anonymous9:32 AM PST

    We could have done without this lates arctic blast, and hopefully it's winter's last hoorah. Seattle didn't get any snow (!) and since temps rose daily (just) above freezing, I stay hopeful. I want plum this year.
    You have a lot more early woodland plants than I do. It's fun walking around looking for signs of life again. I also see Pulmonaria, Brunnera Anemone Blanda, all starting to wake up. Primroses are blooming (rabbits noticing them too).
    I love seeing your Ribes collection. If only I had more room. Uvularia perfoliata is fascinating... I'll look for it in early plant sales.
    Just like scent can evoke strong memories, so can plants. It's a lovely thought that Ipheion uniflorum forever connects you to Joy Creek. (The Memories that Plants Evoke would make an interesting topic).

    1. I love looking outside for signs of life. The snow, which ended up being just about 9" here, is finally nearly melted a week and a half later. I'll have to go look today, hopefully there will be pleasant surprises. Uvularia is pretty cool, hopefully it's around for sale in your area. It hasn't spread a lot or I would divide mine. And yes, the ribes are a favorite for sure. They seem soooo late this year, but maybe I'm mistaken.

      Oh yes, memories that plants evoke...what a personal subject - and pretty cool.

  5. I much prefer that rich red color on the Hollandia flowering quince than the more typical faded orangy red that is more common. Also really like the purple trout lily. Can't remember if I got E. revolutum to succeed in our yard yet or not. We have a few of the native pale yellow Erythronium oregonum up in our small woodland area. I've been thinking of trying to dig a few plants and bring them down to the main garden to enjoy in a place where I would see them more often, but afraid of killing them. Might have a go this spring and see what happens.

    1. Hi Jerry, yes - I agree about the color of the quince. So rich and vibrant, exactly what this soul needs on a cold late winter day. I think moving Erythronium is a fine idea, Mike at Joy Creek dug up a bunch of bulblets for me and they bloomed in my garden the next spring. Very rewarding!

  6. Barbara H.11:25 AM PDT

    Perhaps better to have winter hang on too long that to falsely release its grip, only to push back when spring has sprung and everything is blooming and breaking open. We in NE Alabama are due for some freezing nights - the blueberry blossoms should never have shed their coats. They are loaded but I'm afraid that like last year it will turn out to be a small crop. I was thrilled a couple of years ago to find a small Pulmoneria and more thrilled to have it live through it's second winter here. Thanks for the lovely tour of your spring photo album. It was a true treat.


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