by Sandy Swegel
Spring Equinox is officially upon us. All the joys of the season abound. Birds singing, Crocuses blooming, Baby lambs gamboling in the fields outside of town. Yet one of the dearest and most fleeting of Spring delights is the annual blooming of the spring ephemeral wildflowers.
This is a great season to walk through meadows and along forest trails to catch glimpses of great swaths of these very clever flowers. Ephemeral means lasting a very short time or transitory and these flowers that appear above ground for only a couple of months per year are very crafty. They grow in woodland areas and come to life in the brief interval between the end of winter and the time when the deciduous trees start to grow leaves again. As the sun streams through the bare treetops, hundreds and thousands of flowers throw out wonderful blooms in celebration of their moment in the sun. Wait two months, and everything will be dark and shady in the woods. But once you’ve walked and maybe danced among the spring ephemerals, you’ll always remember their hidden presence.
If cherry and apple blossoms are starting near you, make haste to the nearest wooded area. Lots of botanic gardens and parks schedule hikes during these times. The Great Smoky Mountains are home to an especially large variety of ephemerals from February to April. But even in your own neighborhood, walk along the creeks to find flowers with delightful names like Shooting Star or Trout Lily, Spring Beauty, Trillium and Bleeding Heart. Keep an eye out for other spring flowers who aren’t officially ephemerals but thrive in the same conditions like Wild Geranium and Pasque Flowers.
William Cullina, author of Wildflowers: A Guide to Growing and Propagating Native Flowers of North America, suggests planting spring ephemerals in early spring or late summer in the shade of deciduous trees. He says to prepare the site by incorporating four to six inches of compost in four to six inches of soil. Well-drained soil, rich in organic matter is essential. And remember to plant as nature does…in broad swaths of color.
Life is ephemeral…. So get out there and enjoy Spring, our most hopeful season. Or as my favorite (if not most poetic) quotation about the season says:
“Spring is Nature’s way of saying, Let’s Party!” – Robin Williams