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Spring’s Wildflower Bounty

May 27, 2015

There are not yet many flowers in bloom in my garden, but this is prime season for the spring wildflowers that grow at the edges of the woodlands around my garden. So this month I’m joining Gail at Clay and Limestone in celebration of Wildflower Wednesday.

wildflower white violet wildflower strawberry wildflower bluets

There are several wildflowers that grow in my garden at this time of year. I’m quite happy to let clumps of sweet white violets (Viola blanda) grow where they seed themselves on the back slope. Wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana), which love the glacial sand of my neighborhood, also grow on the back slope – as well as in many other places on my property. Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) bloom in clumps in open, sunny spots.

wildflower canada mayflowerIn addition to these obvious wildflower denizens of my garden, however, there are other wildflowers that will reveal themselves if you look more closely. The Canada mayflowers (Maianthemum canadense), while tiny, are easy to see because they grow in large mats at the edges of the woods and in open spots on the forest floor. Despite their name, these flowers don’t usually appear here until June. This year, however, our long cold winter has been followed by an unusually warm spring, and the mayflowers have actually bloomed in May. Where you find Canada mayflower on my property, you will usually also find it’s companion, the diminutive starflower (Trientalis borealis).

wildflower starflower

Although those strawberry look-alikes, the barren strawberries (Waldsteinia fragarioides) are trying to blend in among the strawberries, their yellow flowers give them away. wildflower barren strawberry
wildflower sasparilla Much harder to see are the white-green flowers of wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), as they peek out from under the shade of their overhanging leaves.
One day, as I was walking up the driveway after my morning walk, I went over to investigate a flash of bright pink on the edge of the woods and found the small flowers of gaywings (Polygala paucifolia). I think these look like little airplanes, with their wings and tiny propellers. wildflower polygala

may wildflowers_1

A bit further afield from my garden, this is also the time of year when the walk down my dirt road to the mailbox rewards close attention. There I found (clockwise from bottom right) a clump of  blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium augustifolium), unidentified small blue violets, the lovely yellow-green flowers of blue-bead lily (Clintonia borealis), and a white version of gaywings (Polygala paucifolia). Best of all, I found several specimens of that elusive woodland beauty, the pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule).

wildflower lady slipper

Soon these spring wildflowers will fade, yielding pride of place to cultivated perennials growing in flower beds. Right now, however, their blooms provide a delightful preview of the garden season.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2015 3:40 pm

    I was already swooning with all these wonderful wildflowers I never see like gaywings and Canada mayflowers…then to see my absolute favorite, lady’s slipper….oh my you lucky lady! I wish I had these in my garden….

    • May 29, 2015 9:37 am

      Donna, Well, I don’t actually have most of these in my garden — more around my garden. (Although the wild sarsaparilla would happily take over my serenity garden if I didn’t keep weeding it out.) The lady’s slippers aren’t reliable here. Some years, I’ll find them in the woods around my house. At least once, I had one right on the edge of my serenity garden. This is the first time I ever remember seeing them by the side of the dirt road, and there were about half a dozen!

  2. May 27, 2015 4:27 pm

    We would all see more beauty if we just took the time to look closely.
    Happy Wildflower Wednesday!

    • May 29, 2015 9:40 am

      Lea, So many of these spring wildflowers are tiny that you have to be paying attention to see and appreciate them. One of the things I love about being retired is the luxury of time to slow down and really look.

  3. May 27, 2015 4:54 pm

    Jean, don’t you love this time of year? The wildflowers are so gorgeous, and are with us for such a short time. All those you show grow in my woods, too — except gaywings (polygala paucifolia). It is entirely unfamiliar… but maybe it is lurking somewhere. I’ll keep my eyes open.

    • May 29, 2015 9:49 am

      Pat, I never noticed the gaywings before this year, but I suspect they were there. It was the bright pink of the flowers that caught my attention this time. The USDA Plants Database shows them as native throughout Quebec and Atlantic Canada more generally, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you have them too.

  4. May 27, 2015 5:42 pm

    nice to see little woodland Polygala cousins to my Septemberbossie

    • May 29, 2015 9:51 am

      Diana, I had to look up your polygala on line. It seems to be a larger plant, but with very similar looking flowers. How big are the flowers on yours? (These are tiny.) Your polygala seems to also grow in California, where it was introduced at some point.

  5. May 27, 2015 6:47 pm

    How lovely to be able to go for walks and find these little delights!

    • May 29, 2015 9:54 am

      Diane, The woods around my house are lovely at this time of year. Unfortunately, they are also home to hordes of blackflies and mosquitoes, so those walks require a shirt of netting.

  6. May 27, 2015 7:09 pm

    Those are some nice pictures of wonderful wildflowers. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    • May 29, 2015 9:55 am

      Dorothy, Thank you. These spring wildflowers come and go so quickly that it’s nice to capture them a bit longer in photos.

  7. Nell Jean permalink
    May 27, 2015 9:29 pm

    Beautiful display. I let wildflowers grow if their blossoms are blue, or purple, or pretty.

    • May 29, 2015 9:57 am

      Nell Jean, I have some wildflowers that I encourage in certain flower beds (violets and strawberries on the back slope, goldenrod in the blue and yellow border), but most of these grow outside the cultivated garden, at the edges of the woods.

  8. May 27, 2015 10:29 pm

    What a nice bunch of treasures to reward you for making it through winter! It must be nice finding these goodies vs the invasive weeds which seem to abound in my garden 🙂

    • May 29, 2015 10:00 am

      Bittster, One of the advantages of gardening on glacial sand is that it doesn’t support all that many weeds. I have to root out a lot of baby blackberry canes and a zillion tree seedlings (especially oaks, since the squirrels find my flower beds particularly nice for burying their acorns). And while I enjoy these wildflowers at the edges of the woods, they are not always welcome in my garden.

  9. May 28, 2015 12:28 am

    How fun to spend time walking in the woods looking for wildflowers! It’s lovely to see a lady’s slipper.

    • May 29, 2015 10:11 am

      Kris, It was indeed a special treat to find lady’s slippers this year.

  10. May 28, 2015 5:04 am


    • May 29, 2015 10:12 am

      Cindy, They are a treat 🙂 — and just as they fade, my garden really starts to come into bloom.

  11. May 28, 2015 2:15 pm

    Ooh, you have lady’s slipper! So pretty! Isn’t it great to enjoy the flow of flowers across each season?

    • May 29, 2015 10:13 am

      VW, I think the lady’s slippers are a special reward for enduring this long winter’s many months without flowers (except the ones on my houseplants).

  12. May 29, 2015 7:56 am

    Hello Jean, what a lovely post for my birthday! The lady’s slipper is an absolute gem. They’re so rare and expensive to buy. I’ve never spotted one in the wild and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to create an area of the garden that is ideal for these plants.

    • May 29, 2015 10:16 am

      Happy Birthday, Sunil! The pink lady’s slippers aren’t rare here, but they aren’t common, either. I find them in the woods around my house some years but not others, and this is the first time I ever remember seeing them at the edge of the woods along my dirt road. Gardeners here are always warned against trying to transplant them from the wild into the garden — both because they might be digging up one of the endangered species of lady’s slipper instead of these and because those transplant attempts are seldom successful.

  13. debsgarden permalink
    May 31, 2015 9:11 pm

    We share blue-eyed grass and wild violets, but your lovely gaywings are new to me. Lady’s slippers are supposed to grow here, but I have never seen them. Lucky you!

    • June 1, 2015 1:43 pm

      Deb, The gaywings were new to me, too. I suspect they were there all along, but I never noticed them before.

  14. June 2, 2015 5:52 am

    Your garden is looking healthy and seasonal. Congrats!

    • June 3, 2015 10:15 pm

      Lula, It’s looking even more healthy since we got some much-needed rain.

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