by Ray Allen
Now is the time the native beauties are blooming in the woods. The initiated know all about it, but millions of people have no clue. I had a couple of decades of this when we had our wildflower woodland open to the public. People would look out over the not-yet-in-bloom meadow and say, "Where are the flowers?" And we'd have to say, "You have to walk into the woods." If they'd go, they'd see the magnificent array of the spring woodland flowers--trilliums, violets in 5 colors, merrybells, mayflower, anemones, and about 100 others, all abloom amid unfurling ferns and sedges. Woodland means they're in the WOODS-not in your yard, not out on the roadside. You must walk into the woods.
North America's woodland wildflowers are unique. Our European immigrants had seen nothing like them when they arrived. Under primeval forests, the east coast of our continent was a magnificent garden of bloom in early spring. The "spring ephemerals" as they're called, bloom just before and as the trees are leafing out. In New England and most of the northeast and northern midwest, that means early to mid May. It's a short burst of bloom, but it's a flower show unmatched anywhere else.
Today, most of the original forest habitat is gone (destroyed not by condos and highways, but by our ancestors' farming--clear the woods, kill the flowers), but there are great preserves. And in fact, almost any woodland that's deep and dark is still the home of these beauties. The photo above is of our trillium bloom in May. Trillium grandiflorum
, or The Great White Trillium, is the one everyone loves, and ours grew naturally--thousands of them--with willing companions of yellow violets, Viola pubescens
. See the yellow violets all around? And that's a solitary red trillium in the far back, right. We had two acres with pathways and
benchs, and during the spring bloom, it was a true spectacle.
After a long winter, everyone who lives in a cold climate is anxious for the rebirth of plants and flowers, but so many still don't know what they're missing when they drive beside a woodland during Woodland Wildflower Time. Remember this: When the tulips and daffodils are blooming in your yard, the native spring wildflowers are blooming in the woods. Don't miss them this year!
To read, "We Built It and They Came," the story of our how we created our woodland wildflower garden, click here.