My greatest champion in staring down winter is my rhubarb. This was here when we moved here; a lone sign of life in a sea of ugly gravel. Despite what the experts say, we've moved it three times and it just keeps coming back brighter than ever. I made rhubarb crisp with it last year and it was divine. So, I'm sure you can imagine how happy I was to see my old friend return. (My son holds my hand and drags me each day to "check on the rhubarb!" I love this!)
This striped squill is my very first flower of the year -- and it is not even mine! Really. It is a volunteer that made its way to the side of our house. I think this is the third year it has shown up, much to my delight. I think it is absolutely charming.
The next brave soul is the columbine, aquilegia 'Beidermeier.' As I had secretly hoped, it has begun self seeding. I simply cannot get enough of the cool pastels of this intricate and elegant plant. It lines the path leading into the garden and lends a lovely woodland feel to the path. Welcome back, lovely lady!
The next eager starter is the clematis, macropetala 'Lagoon.' It is a sweet blue clematis that is practically maintenance-free. It grows on old growth and likes to get out there early and let the world know that there is a reason to stop and stare. Deceptively delicate looking, it is proving once again - now in its third year - that it is one tough cookie. My kinda vine.
Don't these peppery looking little flowers delight? They are not ones that we normally get to see close-up because they are usually so far above us. They are the flower of the tree, Ulmus Americana 'Brandon.' Generally referred to as the American elm, it is a stately vase-shaped tree found on boulevards across North America. Sadly, it has been decimated in many regions by Dutch Elm Disease, carried by a small beetle. Here in Alberta, we claim to be Dutch Elm Disease-free. I think there have been one or two cases reported; however, the province has a rigorous program in place to stop the disease, that so far seems to be working. I am taking it on faith that they will continue to be diligent, and so added this very favourite tree to my garden. I have the room for it and absolutely love them. In a few years these tiny, frothy flowers will be too high for me to see so I'll enjoy their proximity now.
Looking down, I see the patches of Lamium Maculatum 'White Nancy' are springing back to life. I put several of these in last year late in the season. I had this particular lamium in my previous garden and love the way it glows with a silvery light in the shade and in the evenings. The small white flowers look like pearls to me. I understand that some lamiums are thugs in certain conditions; however, White Nancy is a tidy and well-behaved ground cover here and blends beautifully with other shade-loving foliage. Welcome back, silver sister!
Another hardworking and under-appreciated beauty of the dappled light garden is Lady's Mantle, Alchemilla mollis. This beauty is one of the first to show up for the party and keeps her good looks all summer. You can't beat the silver beads of dew that grace her foliage in the morning and add sparkle to the garden. I put in several of these last year as well, and plan to add more this year as an edging plant.
An evergreen shrub I've always coveted is the Taunton's Yew, Taxus x media 'Tauntonii.' It has a graceful low form and soft, arching branches. I was delighted to see it came through its first winter without any burn or dieback. Most impressive. I may be adding more of these pretties as well.
And finally (I could go on as there is more coming up!), I will end with the Rosa rugosa 'Schneezwerg.' The snow dwarf is a sweet, simple white rose that blooms and blooms. I was very impressed with it last summer as the three of them were never without blooms. As a rugosa, it is a tough rose, but small, tidy and shapely. I look foward to seeing them fill in a little more this year.
I hope you are all enjoying the magic of spring, wherever your gardens may be. I'll be visiting your blogs as I can this week to check out spring as she is making her magic across the continents. Yay!