The end of Spring

Well, it’s almost official. The end of spring. I always have in the back of my mind a sort of floral calendar that takes me through this time of year. For example, winter is over when the first snowdrops (Galanthus species), crocus, and winter aconites (Eranthis species) begin blooming in the new year (early spring).

Picture of purple crocus with orange and white interior.
Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'
A picture of white snowdrops in the spring
Galanthus elwesii
Picture of yellow winter aconite
Eranthis hyemalis

The end of winter occurs whether or not March 20th has arrived or passed and regardless of whether a snow or ice storm sweeps through after the crocus and snowdrops begin to bloom. Once those flowers are up, early spring has officially arrived. Luckily, these flowers often begin blooming as early as January or February here in western Oregon. This allows me to extend my favorite season, spring, by an extra two months or so.

Mid-spring is next, and begins when the daffodils start blooming.

Tahiti yellow and orange double narcissus
Narcissus 'Tahiti'
Hoop petticoat narcissus with tiny yellow flowers
Narcissus bulbocodium
Chromacolor narcissus with yellow, orange, or coral trumpets
Narcissus 'Chromacolor'

Late Spring begins and ends with irises, peonies, and red hot poker plants.

The burnished copper and gold of Iris Tuscan Summer
Iris 'Tuscan Summer'
Red hot poker flower at Cistus nursery
Kniphofia cultivar
The gaudy pink extravagence of Sarah Bernhardt Peony
Paeonia lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Once those fade, early Summer has arrived. Again, it doesn’t matter when we are in the calendar year, as soon as the last bearded iris shrivels, the hot pokers burn out, and the last peony shatters into a brown mess of musty attic tissue paper, summer is here. Coincidentally, it’s June 19th.

Spent flowers of bearded iris, Iris germanica
Iris germanica
Burnt out red hot poker flowers
Kniphofia uvaria
Peony flowers fading into musty puffs of dry tissue paper
Paeonia lactiflora

And, it’s here where my floral calendar ends. I don’t really have a series of phenological events that mark the rest of year through summer, into fall, and then through winter. I do have in my mind that early summer is when the color green starts to dominate, though there are still plenty of flowers to be had.

The tiny green leaves of Seiju elm
Ulmus parviflora 'Seiju'
Silvery bluish green leaves of Artemisia canescens
Artemisia canescens
Weed smothering leaves of Phlomis russeliana
Phlomis russeliana

That initial explosion of vegetative growth in the spring always catches me off guard. Once summer begins, everything finally begins to slow down. The bright, youthful chartreusian green deepens to a more mature, thoughtful, moderate green. I often have moments of panic at several points throughout the spring where I think I will never catch up. Everything is growing so fast! Suddenly, I turn around and this or that area is full of weeds, or I forgot to prune one of the shrubs that has gotten too big for its britches, or something in the garden has stopped blooming before I had time to fully appreciate it. As much as I try to prolong spring over 5 months (January – June, I would do 6 months if I could), it still goes by too fast. That was one benefit from the pandemic last year – I was  home more often to enjoy the garden during “the most wonderful time of the year” (I always associate that refrain from Andy Williams’ Christmas song with spring).

So, what blooms are peakng now that summer has arrived? The poppies are going full blast.

Purple and red opium poppy marching down to the creek
Papaver somniferum marching down to the creek

In the morning they are full of bees frantically harvesting pollen. The air is buzzing with them – they swoop in from all directions, and the flowers shake and vibrate with activity. Each poppy (left) is loaded with hundreds of little white tablets of pollen that orbit the central yellow stigma. Most of the bees are honey bees. Where are they coming from? We are out in the middle of thousands of acres of Douglas-fir plantations. By afternoon the pollen is gone and the poppies are quiet. Nothing left but soft filaments and pollen debris. The pollen party is over. Abandoned. Eerily so. No pollinators at all.

Purple poppy full of pollen and bees in the morning
Morning purple poppy pollen
Red poppy in the afternoon without pollen
Afternoon - no pollen, no bees

The Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria aurea) are coming into their own.

Orange and yellow flowers of the peruvian lily
Alstroemeria aurea

As are the foxgloves…they have a very light scent, like the sweet maple syrupy dustiness of chicken feathers.

White flowers of foxglove
Digitalis grandiflora
Spotted purple flowers of foxglove
Digitalis purpurea
Tiny yellow flowers of Digitalis lutea
Digitalis lutea

The summer penstemons are just starting to ramp up. Bonus! The leaves of Penstemon serrulatus smell like rotted dumpster trash on hot days.

The dusky purple flowers of Penstemon 'Enor'
Penstemon 'Enor'
Purple flowers of Penstemon serrulatus
Penstemon serrulatus
Bam! Red-in-your-face flowers of Penstemon 'Firebird'
Penstemon 'Firebird'

And lastly, some weeds and wildflowers that bloom in our lawn. Heal-all (Prunella vulgaris), oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), and common centaury (Centaurium erythraea).

Purple flowers of heal-all, Prunella vulgaris
Prunella vulgaris
Introducing the weedy white daisy - Leucanthemum vulgare
Leucanthemum vulgare
Pink, pink, pink! (and yellow) flowers of common centaury, Centaurium erythraea
Centaurium erythraea

What flowers characterize the seasons for you?

Waiting to see which flowers I think will embody the dry heat of mid-summer…

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