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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blooming Now


Our first flowers to bloom are the little Eranthis. They are our early promise of spring. When it is cloudy they close up tight as in the above photo. When the sun shines they open wide.


The following is a post from last year, but I thought some of the new bloggers might like to see the photos.

Before we moved here, I had never heard of Eranthis, but Mary told me they would come up and bloom late in the wintertime - in February. I had no idea what she was talking about. But when the time came, she called me and asked if I had Eranthis yet. She called them Eranthis, so I called them Eranthis.

When I try to think of the name of a plant, the name that comes first to my mind is whatever name I heard it called
first . That might be the common name or the scientific name - whatever I heard first. If I'm talking to someone, sometimes they want to know another name for it. I have to stop and think, give my poor old slow brain several seconds, then if I'm lucky up comes the second name.

There are probably other names for them, but this is all I know:
Eranthis hyemalis (common name: Winter Aconite)

They grow from tiny little bulbs, and I have read that they are difficult to get started in the garden, for by the time an order has arrived if they are not planted immediately the small bulbs tend to dry out and die.

Once established, as in this garden, they seed about and spread if allowed. They do get seedy looking (unattractive), and it requires patience to permit them to remain until they have dropped all their seeds and the little plants turn yellow, die down, and vanish. They taught me the meaning of the old saying "seedy looking".

But, those tiny seeds sprout and the little plant, over time, forms its little bulb. In a few years, once enough energy has been collected and stored in the bulb, the plant will bloom. Then the ragged, unattractive stage is happily forgiven when I accept its gift of spring.

When they did come up and bloom that first spring, we were enchanted. I try to protect them from foot traffic and let them spread.

These may be the first flowers to bloom. I can't think of anything blooming earlier here. Frequently, they are covered by snow, but that does not phase them. They just snuggle under.

When the sun is not shining they stay closed, protecting their pollen from the weather. When the sun shines they fling open their petals and welcome the little bees; the bees are ecstatic during these orgies.

Then the day comes when I don my wool hat and puddle-duck shoes and walk out to inspect the little yellow flowers that have bloomed in sheets. The first flowers - and there are sheets of them!

I told Mary that the prettiest colony of them was in the far back border near the property line fence. I asked if she planted all of those. She asked, "Where, honey?" I explained and described again, and she said, "Oh, honey, that's where I threw my pullin's."

And, that is what happened! She had a large brush pile back there where she threw everything; including her pullin's full of clinging seeds.

And, that is where one of the loveliest colonies grew.



22 comments:

farmlady said...

There so pretty! I looked them up in my gardening book and you have the right name for them. Eranthis hyemalis or winter aconite. They're like little buttercups. I think they are beautiful. We don't have them here in California. I've never seen any. Yellow is such a pretty color to see after a long winter.
Nice post.

Rhonda said...

oh how lovely...I can see these as a beautiful yellow ground cover in the natural areas of our acreage. Tell me, do you know of a source for them and are they planted in the fall like most spring bulbs?
Thanks for passing this on...i had never heard of them.

Gail said...

The stuff of dreams...wouldn't we all love to have this incredible colony of winter aconites!

She threw her pullings and they grew! Isn't that a wonderful story. It's beautiful, they're beautiful! I loved your post and Mary's story...now yours! gail

joey said...

Spring is enchanting, Barbee! Bless us all, waiting patiently. Happy March!

Barbee' said...

farmlady, I agree about the color yellow; it is probably my favorite, especially at the end of a long winter. I am sorry you are not able to grow these little delights in California, but you can grow so many kinds of plants that I cannot. I have to control those old monsters, envy, and jealousy when I look at pictures of some of the west coast states' gardens. I can't even grow lupine! I think this soil is too alkaline for them.

Rhonda, the little bulbs probably are not true bulbs, that is just what I call them. They are funny looking tiny little things that remind me of mines (explosives to destroy submarines), because they have little bristle-looking things (roots?) sticking out all over them. I don't know where you are located, but I did a quick search for a source in the U.S. and came up with two. I saw other hits that were in the U.K.

http://www.oldhousegardens.com/bulb.asp?Cat=DI&#eranthis
and
http://www.landrethseeds.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=5275

I don't know if they are a native American plant, but I doubt it because I read a quote of Shakespear's about the little things. Yet, I came across this map showing where they grow in North America.
Map
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ERHY4

Next, here is a source for Planting and Culture information:
http://www.shootgardening.co.uk/sitePlant.php?plantid=319&name=eranthis-hyemalis

The thing about planting them is: the bulbs are so small they dry out rapidly, sometimes in shipping. I notice one of the sources coats theirs in agricultural wax to prevent that. They need to be planted immediately upon receipt.

If you receive live plants, I think early spring or late winter would be best. If you have dormant bulbs, I think to plant them in autumn would be better, but, I suspect the bulbs would be OK if planted either season.

Gail, I am so glad you enjoyed seeing them. They seem very happy here, I am not sure why. We are on limestone, and I suspect the soil is neutral or slightly alkaline, and perhaps they like that. Based on Mary's story, now when I want some in a particular location, I dump my pullin's there and leave them. It takes a couple of years for bloom. On the other hand, I hate it when I have to weed a bed or area where they are, and I keep digging into them. There is no way I can prevent damaging some.

joey, thank you for stopping by. Yes, spring will be most welcome this year!

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

They're lovely. It's so nice to see the yellow when the ground's been white for so long. A first sign of spring...it's so encouraging:)

Gardeness said...

Such a cheerful little flower. A nice way to brighten the day.

Hoot Owl Hollow Nursery said...

Thanks for pointing me to your blog. I think your soil must be more compatible with aconites than my woodsy soil. We're not all that far apart so I figure you have the same critters we have that eat bulbs and yours spread while mine stay in small clumpss of 2 or 3 plants before declining after a few years. My favorite source for bulbs is Brent and Becky's Bulbs. With our acres of daffodils I sometimes think we're part of their retirement plan.
Jane

tina said...

They are lovely. I will look for them as I have just the spot. Thanks for the info on them too, I'll be prepared for the seedy looking side of them:)

Esther Montgomery said...

They grow in the wild round here but aren't flowering yet. After them will come the celandines. Do you get them too?

I've missed your blogging recently and got a really warm feeling seeing the little flags in the soil. Very Barbee-esque!

Esther

P.S. About the soil and the planting - I don't know what I'm talking about except from observing where they grow here - which is in sunny patches of woodland. That might help your readers chose where to put them.

Marta McDowell said...

Gorgeous promise of spring. I've tried to get them going ever so many times, and will probably try them again. They are such happy little things. Have you read The Little Bulbs by Elizabeth Lawrence?

Barbee' said...

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) and
Gardeness:
Thank you, so glad you enjoyed seeing them. When I work near them while they are wide open, I sometimes get a whiff of the aroma of honey.

Hoot Owl Hollow Nursery, Cute! I'm sure Brent and Becky appreciate your contribution, and you must have a delightful view in return. Sounds wonderful. Your Eranthis problem is a real puzzle!

Hi Tina, I hope they thrive for you.

Esther, I Googled celandines in the U.K., and I do not have that kind, but I think they grow wild some places in our eastern states (according to what I read). The nearest thing I have is a double Ranunculus that I have to treat with a firm hand or it would take over the whole place. It spreads by throwing out runners similar to those of strawberries. I try to keep it in one small bed.

Years ago after I married and had moved away, I remember my mother telling me about little yellow flowers that filled the acres of newly planted soy bean fields all around their house. She said cars pulled over to the shoulder (verge) and stopped down at the highway, and people would just stand and gaze, some took photographs. She gathered some and pressed them. I wonder if the sap irritated her skin. Apparently the seeds my father planted were contaminated with weed seeds. Maybe those were the small celandines.

I traveled to the U.K. one time; while there, I fell in love with the wild cowslips and wall flowers. Until then, I did not know there really are such things as wallflowers. Thank you for the encouragement, Esther. I am tired of those flags, so am planning to re-evaluate them and take out all that I possibly can. Some are marking plants that didn't live, so they can go.

Also, thank you for the information and advice based on your observations. That is quite valuable.

Marta McDowell, Yes, I have read THE LITTLE BULBS. I think I have read everything Elizabeth Lawrence wrote except her newspaper articles. I'm sorry you are among those who have not been able to make the little flowers stay with you.

I suspect, just from my own observations, that they should be planted shallowly. They drop their seeds (I think in early summer.), then teeny-tiny little plants appear, then gradually over the seasons they grow larger until they bloom and join in with the big guys. Sometimes they are in the lawn with sod and no bare soil. Maybe the bulbs multiply, too, I don't know about that. Anyway, I know when I find them while weeding, the little bulbs, or corms, are located approximately one to two inches down.

I know I have written posts in the past which had photos showing the different stages and ages of the plants. If I can find them again, I will add the label "eranthis". Right now, only this post has that label. The labeling system surely makes it much easier to find what one is looking for.

lynn'sgarden said...

Hi Barbee, Aconites are such teeny tiny flowers that you can't appreciate it unless it's planted enmass..you have alot all right! So cheerful and nice that it's blooming now when nothing else much is. I've enjoyed your post and photos, thanks!
Lynn
Ok to add myself to your Follow list?

Barbee' said...

lynn, I agree about the little ones needing to be en mass. I left a comment on your post saying that Goldfinches especially may be eating the seeds of your Dames' Rocket. And, of course you may add me to your follow list. I really like that function. Thank you for dropping by.

Mariaberg said...

It is like sunshine in the garden.
In Swedish the are called Vintergeck.

I only have two flowers of them! When I moved 1,5 years ago I tried to take some with me but like you said the bulbs are so small so I could not find them.

I have Snowdrops blossom in my garden now.

On my blog I have a competition.

At that page it is a competition so you can win that photo as a A4 print.
http://alltkangronska.blogspot.com/2009/02/tavling-vinn-en-forstoring.html
The page will tell you to go and visit a page with more photos and then you write down the photo you like and why you like them.
I need that help so I know what kind of photos people like.
If you like the competition will you please tell your friends?

Lots of love,
Maria Berg, MB

SECRET DIARY said...

Heya! This is my first time on your blog. I love your blog. I will be back. Stay fabulous. It keeps 'em guessing. Ciao.

MNGarden said...

What a delight to find these naturalized beauties blooming so early in the year.
Donna

Barbee' said...

Maria, so many people have trouble growing these; I have found out. I feel so, so lucky to have a wealth of them. I do love Snowdrops, they are so pure and innocent looking. Your contest sounds interesting; I will check it out later today.

SECRET DIARY, what fun to hear from you, do come back sometime. I am glad you liked what you found here. It appeals to some and not to others. Thank you for the comment.

MNGarden, I agree! I wish more people could see them, but everyone is so busy. At least my blogging buddies get to see the photos. I am grateful for that way of sharing them.

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Wonderful colonies of winter aconites/Eranthis. They really make a fantastic show in the spring, and I think they really are best grown like yours, naturalized and in big clumps!

Cinj said...

That yellow looks so bright and cheerful. What better way to brighten a winter day? I love the fact that they weren't intentionally planted there and that's where they do the best.

Alan said...

My lawn will look like that in a month. Of course they will be dandelions not your gorgeous flowers. It was 9 degrees this morning at my house. Thanks for sharing a taste of spring.

Barbee' said...

The Intercontinental Gardener: Thank you for visiting and commenting. The Eranthis is the only desirable plant that grows here abundantly. I feel so fortunate to be blessed that way.

Cinj: Hi, I think so, too. Of course, from a distance some people think they are dandelions, but that is OK with me. I hope I live long enough to see the whole place covered with them. Each February there are a few more, and sometimes in new locations.

Alan: We have dandelions, too, and they are delightful. I bet your children enjoy them. Brrr! 9 degrees! Maybe these yo-yoing temps will level out before too long.