The fragrant abelia (Abelia mosanensis) seen here will be blooming in early to mid May with these extremely fragrant flower clusters. I advocate this shrub (hardy to zone 5 and zone 4 with protection) in many of my presentations as I feel it is underutilized. Native to Korea (also called Korean abelia), this shrub will get 5-6' tall and wide and features upright, arching stems (see directly below). While "casual in appearance", this shrub offers two solid seasons of interest. The spring flowers are extremely fragrant and reminiscent of lilacs. The buds are pink and open up to five-lobed flowers that are pinkish white. However, the fall color (see further below) is consistently superior and add strong interest in October. This shrub also only blooms on old wood (like lilacs) so any pruning should be done directly after flowering. Consider the merits of this excellent selection.
This blog is a tribute to the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) which is blooming under the snow right now out in the gardens! This is a fall planted bulb and is one of our first to bloom along with snowdrops (Galanthus sp.). Actual timing will vary as we've seen them as early as February and as late as early April depending on how spring arrives. In many cases, they will bloom up through the snow (see below). They are blooming well for us right now and have reseeded and colonized nicely. See further below for a photo of the seed head and some photos of some of our expanding colonies. New seedlings will take 3-5 years to bloom but also go dormant and disappear with older specimens by late May. Native to Southern France through Bulgaria, these buttercup relatives are in the Ranunculaceae family. "Hyemalis" means "winter flowering" and is an apt description of the the bloom time. We have winter aconites in many of our shade gardens as their bloom time corresponds to receiving plenty of sunlight before the overhead canopy of deciduous trees fills in and creates more shade. The bulbs are inexpensive and many recommend that they are soaked prior to planting (they look like giant dried raisins when you buy them). They are a true harbinger of spring and indispensable in the early spring garden where they'll provide decades of enjoyment as they continue to spread and add such cheery color!
Prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) is a native perennial that is one of my favorites for interest in the summer months. Reaching only 15" in height, this is a nice plant in the front of the border or in any bright sunny location. Preferring dry, well-drained soils in full sun, this perennial features nodding, reddish-pink blooms in late spring (see further below) which transform to these wispy, elongated seed heads. With a breeze, they look amazing and ultimately, these feathery "seed tails" help with seed dispersal with late season seeds "sailing" to new destinations. This wispy look has also led to the other common names of this perennial such as torch flower, lion's beard and old man's whiskers. Some Native Americans used the boiled roots of this plant to create a tea for wound treatments, sore throats and as a treatment for tuberculosis. We have some nice specimens in our alpine garden although many of these photos are from elsewhere. Note further below the transition from the late spring flower to the wispy appearance (a "months-long" display) and ultimately some fall color as well. This is a tough, durable and long-lived, hardy plant once established.
Spring flowers both directly above and below
a big patch of prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) at the Chicago Botanic Garden
late fall color of prairie smoke (Geum triflorum)