The Easter bunny flower

For those of you celebrating – Happy Easter! For everyone else – enjoy ‘cause you got a long weekend anyway, and a pretext to eat more chocolate (eggs) is always good – then, you can go outside and do some gardening!

The snow has begun to recede even in my shaded part of the garden and what we should call maybe ‘the bunny-flower’ showed its fluffy stems through the soil. Pulsatilla vulgaris, native from central Europe, is commonly known as the pasque flower because it usually flowers around Easter time, sometimes in April or early May. It shows up with the lovely, silky, hairy foliage, followed shortly by large bell-shaped flowers, in shades of purple, white, red or even rose, depending on the variety. The plume-like fruit heads are also ornamental and last a long time.

Pulsatilla vulgaris - first leaf

Pulsatilla vulgaris – first leaf

Although a resilient and a long-lived garden plant, it is not seen in gardens as much as one would like. It is not very easy to propagate because it does not like to be disturbed (divided), so this is usually done by seeds, which need to be sown as soon as ripen and require light for germination. 

 And a few other flowering treasures from my Easter garden!

Eranthis hiemalis

Eranthis hyemalis (winter aconite), was the first to flower in my garden

Eranthis hiemalis with dwarf irises

Eranthis hyemalis with dwarf irises

Helleborus 'Cherry Blossom'

Helleborus ‘Cherry Blossom’ – saying ‘No more snow, please!’

Hepatica transsilvanica 'Buis'

Hepatica transsilvanica ‘Buis’ – a blue dream (Lost Horizons)

Primula x 'Stradbrook Dream'

and a purple one – Primula x ‘Stradbrook Dream’  (Wrightman Alpines)


And then there were the Saxifrages…

The Latin word saxifraga means literally “stone-breaker”, from Latin saxum (“rock” or “stone”) + frangere (“to break”). Pliny the Elder thought the plant was named like this because at the time it was given to dissolve gallstones (another example of the Doctrine of Signatures). Even so, Saxifraga is a very good name for a plant growing in rock crevices.

Saxifraga 'Redpoll'

Saxifraga ‘Redpoll’

Some of my regular readers might have noticed my penchant for mountains, and of course, everything that grows on them. The seed collections from the Carpathian Mts. we did last summer, my limited garden space (at some point there is no other way to expand but UP), and the fact that every year I plan to do it and it never happens, all combined together and I finally made it to the only nursery specialized in alpine plants from Ontario: Wrightman Alpines .

Alpine house with Saxifraga

Alpine house with Saxifraga and many other species

It is a small size operation (mail-order) but growing a vast array of alpine plants from all over the world. On their website, besides perusing the catalogue, with some species in very short supply, you can watch a few interesting videos about building clay crevice gardens, planting tufa and much more. Alas, this cold month of March made it that many species were behind their usual growth, but to put things into balance, the Saxifrages were in flower. Skilfully grown in small tufa pieces by Harvey Wrightman, they were looking like miniatural rock gardens in themselves.

Saxifraga 'Athena'

Saxifraga ‘Athena’

Saxifraga cohlearis 'Minor'

Saxifraga cochlearis ‘Minor’

Saxifraga oppositifolia 'Florissa'

Saxifraga oppositifolia ‘Florissa’

The genus Saxifraga is quite large, comprising a wide range of mostly perennial plants, many of which are alpines. According to the Saxifraga Society there are some 480 known species and countless garden hybrids. The sections that are of garden interest are: the ‘mossies’ (section Saxifraga), the ‘silvers (section Ligulatae) and the Kabschia and Engleria subsections (of section Porphyrion).

Saxifraga 'Allendale Charm'

Saxifraga ‘Allendale Charm’

Saxifraga oppositifolia 'Theodor'

Saxifraga oppositifolia ‘Theodor’

Saxifraga 'Premsyl Orac'

Saxifraga ‘Premsyl Orac’

Now, if I made you think I know what I’m talking about, you are wrong (in this case). When I’ll be done with the many other genera I’m working on, I’ll get to the Saxifraga too, but that might be a long time from now. Unless you really need a botanical challenge in your life, I suggest that you do like me: try to have fun growing a few of them in your rock garden.

Saxifraga 'Penelope'

Saxifraga ‘Penelope’

Saxifraga ex. Porteous # 2

Saxifraga ex. Porteous

Saxifraga 'Jana'

Saxifraga ‘Jana’

Saxifraga 'Dana'

Saxifraga ‘Dana’

And of course, I came home with my ‘Romeo’ (and a carload of tufa stones), hope our romance will last a bit longer…

Saxifraga 'Romeo'

Saxifraga ‘Romeo’

For the connoisseurs, I cannot end without showing a real alpine gem: Dionysia tapetoides – a cliff-dweller, native from Afghanistan, hard to grow and equally hard to find.

Dyonisia tapetoides

Dionysia tapetoides flowering at Wrightman Alpine Nursery

Season of Ten Thousand Flowers

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.  – Wumen

It is official: in the Northern Hemisphere, the astronomical Spring has begun! – don’t shake your head in disbelieve. Wikipedia got it right: “The specific definition of the exact timing of “spring” varies according to local climate, cultures and customs. At the spring equinox, days are close to 12 hours long, with day length increasing as the season progresses. Spring and “springtime” refer to the season, and also to the ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection, and re-growth.”

For me this is the Season of Ten Thousand Flowers, but like any awakening from a long sleep, it starts slow. If not observant, you can miss its sweetest moments: the first leaves peeking through the ground, the first flower to unfold, the first bumblebee. I took a few pictures on my miniature sunny rockery last Sunday and we have a race going on: which one is going to be the first to flower? My favourite in the race it is Hepatica of course…

The first sign of Spring can be usually noticed in our area in February or even early March, and is given by the Skunk cabbage: Symplocarpus foetidus (fam. Araceae). It grows along streams, and it is mostly known because of the flowers that give off heat, melting the snow around. A somehow bizarre apparition (if you don’t know what it is), it has an enormous importance in the woodland habitat, providing food and shelter for the early insects; the gigantic leaves that follow provide shelter for small mammals and food for some insects and slugs. Also the seeds are eaten by the wood ducks and Northern Bobwhites. We didn’t have time to visit our Skunk cabbage location yet; the images are from last year:

Get ready for the Season of Ten Thousand Flowers: gloves, rubber boots, camera, and all the other stuff…!!!