After so many gray days, every hint of sunshine is a welcome blessing. There is still not much color in the garden, other than green shoots. It won’t be long, though. Spring has a succession of bloom that few gardeners can duplicate at other times of the year, even the most experienced.
I tend to think of spring colors as pastels, but the reality in my garden does not play out that way. Rather than soft, Easter colors, my flowers erupt in the vivid clear tones of red tulips, purple hyacinths, and yellow primroses. It’s as if the garden has been holding its breath all winter and can’t contain it any longer. Whoosh… Hello world, look what I can do!
Hybridizers try and tone down the flare up, but somehow tulips just want to be loud. Who can blame them, their moment of glory is so brief. The calmer colors of Pulmonaria and bleeding heart will have to wait until the first eruption subsides. That’s when the garden has had a chance to catch its breath and carry on at a more rhythmic pace.
What always amazes me is how many plants start off as reddish shoots or leaves. I remember someone saying that plants have red leaves in the spring as camouflage. I thought that meant protection against grazing animals, but it seems it is more for protection against insects. They have also done studies to see if the red coloring is a sunscreen of sorts, protecting tender shoots from sudden bright light. But according to The Importance of Being Red, (Tree Physiology Online) that hasn’t been proven. Still, it’s kind of interesting all the things plants do to survive, that we don’t really think about.
Peonies are the first plants I think of with red shoots, but there are quite a few others. Even my Astilbe starts off red. You can still see how lacy the leaves are going to be. All these red shoots are also full of anthocyanins, the flavonoids that give purple vegetables and red wine their color.
And this underused little plant, Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla), is possibly showier now than when it is in flower. Twinleaf is a sweet little woodland plant that is native to eastern North America. It was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, by his friend, botanist William Bartram. You can start to see why it’s called twinleaf; the leaves are joined at the base and open like a pair of wings. This clump is starting to green up.
This is just a first glimpse of spring color. It’s not as showy as what’s to come, but it is fascinating to watch the garden so tentatively come back to life. We’re on our way!