Springtime Ephemerals (Wood Anemones and Trillium)

Spring Ephemerals (Catch ‘em while you can)

South Sound Spring ephemerals begin blooming the minute the temperature starts warming up, i.e. right now. Spring ephemeral plants are just as the name implies. They bloom for a short time and then disappear (go dormant) until next spring. They disappear above but their roots continue to grow like mad. Their appearance may be fleeting but nothing is more appreciated after a cold rainy winter than a few pops of color no matter how long it lasts. One our very favorite ephemerals is the…

Pacific Trillium

Whatever you call it, Wake Robin, Toadshade or Western Trillium, our native Trilium ovatum is one early spring bloom that everyone knows. It’s the one with three pure white petals above three dark green leaves. Coming upon a drift of them in a woodland setting is an unforgettable experience. Some myths surround the home cultivation of our native Trillium. Some true, some not.

  1. Don’t pick Trillium flowers! True. All of their energy for next year is tied up in the flower…doing this sets it way back.
  2. Don’t dig Trillium plants in the wild. True unless you are reclaiming them before another strip mall is built.
  3. You can’t move or divide them. False. If you get a big enough clump of soil, they transplant fine. Wait until June to do it though.
  4. It takes 7 years to get a bloom from seed. False. It only takes 4. Only 4.
  5. Trilliums are endangered. False. You need permission to dig them though.
  6. They are very difficult to grow. False. Give them what they want, a woodland setting. It’s pretty simple. They like shade, moisture and rich native soil. And luckily they’re easier to find than ever before because of the interest in native plant gardening. A good partner plant for the earliest Trilium is the sweet….

Wood Anemone

Wood anemone flowers (Anemone nemorosa) look as delicate as lace but they’re as tough as nails. They make a beautiful spring groundcover at only 4” tall and pack a powerful color punch when massed. The flowers are white (single and double), lavender, pink or “almost” blue with dark green foliage. They are extremely easy to grow and have the same needs as Trillium: shade, moisture and rich native soil. Wood anemones are easier to get into drifts. You can divide and replant. These are also much easier to find now. But just like the Trillium, you have to be early to get them. Getting good information about these old fashioned ephemerals is a pleasure when you find a classic garden book like…

The English Flower Garden by William Robinson

Isn’t it comforting to know that there are garden classics that don’t get dismissed or forgotten? “The English Flower Garden” is such a classic. It was originally published in 1883. The reprints are in the 15thand final edition, the last one approved by the author. It should be on every perennial gardeners shelf for its charm and its “never goes out of style” advice. It has black and white line drawings and photographs, which already sets it apart from today’s gloss. It has over 700 pages and covers everything a self-respecting 19th century English flower gardener should know and it informs 21st century gardeners just as well. The Amaryllis Press, $35