Winter Aconite – First Color of Spring

Winter reminded us today that it can still show up and did so with 5″ of snow over night and in to the late morning.  The roads were a mess and this certainly thwarted garden work outside.  However, it didn’t affect our productivity in the Horticulture Center.  We did have a semi load of bagged mushroom compost show up this morning which Larry skillfully unloaded.  Our Bagged Compost Sale starts Saturday, April 4th and is held at the Horticulture Center (8 am – 12 noon) every Saturday through May.  We’ll be adding some pansy offerings to this sale by mid April which will include 4 packs, baskets and planters.  Dick H. did a nice job plowing our lot and Larry also worked on some spring snow removal.  Marv helped take down the screen from the successful Saturday symposium and cleaned up more of our indoor tropical plants.  Dr. Gredler and Peg worked on painting while Bob K., Jim and Dave worked on carpentry projects.  Gary worked on sign production and repair.  Kay was in for Spring Plant Sale label processing and Kathy stopped by with some goodies for the crew.  We also saw Mark S., Rollie, Dr. Yahr, Big John and many others today.

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!