More than ever I am focused on the present moment. My plans rarely extend beyond the end of the week. As I spend more time at home and many hours in my garden, I realize how much I appreciate the beauty and fleeting life cycle of the spring ephemerals that are taking center stage in my landscape right now.
According to the dictionary, ephemeral means ‘lasting for a very short time.’ That definition accurately describes many plants which emerge quickly in the spring to take advantage of the light before the trees have leafed out. These sun loving, tough specimens grow quickly, bloom, set seed and then retreat underground until the next season. This entire life cycle often takes only a couple of months. Most emerge in March or April and have completely disappeared by June when the canopy of deciduous trees and the foliage of surrounding perennials have stolen their light.
This short bloom time makes ephemeral plants perfect for layering in the garden. While many perennials are just beginning to wake up from a winter’s nap in April, ephemerals are already stealing the show. I also love that a number of these plants are tiny and best appreciated up close. To me, nothing is better than wandering around the garden looking for hidden treasures and upon finding them, getting down on my hands and knees to admire them up close. Having dirty knees is right up there with dirty fingernails in my book – both signs of a passionate gardener.
Let me introduce you to some of my favorites. Thalictrum thalictroides (Rue Anemone) is an adorable wildflower, reaching only about 6 inches tall. I pair Thalictrum with Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern). The Thalictrum fill in the gaps between the ferns while the fiddleheads begin to emerge.
Trillium erectum (Red Trillium) has mottled foliage and gorgeous burgundy flowers. I don’t have many Trillium since the deer like them too, but I appreciate their presence and stately stature.
Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman’s breeches) blooms look like little pantaloons, thus the name. The delicate, dissected foliage is delightful and adds a lacey texture and whimsy to the landscape.
Mertensia virginiana (Bluebells) naturalize beautifully and create carpets of blue on the woodland floor. I adore the delicate flowers and admire their determination as they will set seed and grow anywhere, including the crevices of rocks.
Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot) magically appears in different places each year. Ants eat the seeds and disperse them. I always look forward to seeing where they pop up. Multiplex is a particularly beautiful cultivar. Although Multiplex is a sterile form and doesn’t set seed, clumps can be divided and moved around the garden.
Claytonia virginica (Spring beauty) petals sport pink stripes which remind me of bloodshot eyes, but instead they are a sight for sore eyes.
Hopefully you are out looking for treasures in your garden and finding them in loveliness of spring ephemerals. If you don’t have any ephemerals, consider adding them as they will bring you joy in the present moment and for years to come.