Spring has settled in at Bellefontaine Cemetery, and many gardens are waking up with a spectacular display easily overlooked. As our perennial plants, shrubs, and trees break their dormancy, their leaves and flowers quickly develop to absorb the warm rays of the sun and to attract those early-flying pollinators. Many plants feature spectacular colors on their emerging foliage, colors often lost as the leaves and flowers mature. Clearing debris from your garden once the danger of a frost has passed will allow the gardener to appreciate the tender stems breaking through the soil, with their reds, purples, and myriad shades of green putting on a show for the keen observer. Beyond the excitement of another growing season, emergent perennials and bulbs can be utilized in garden designs. Pairing a Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), an early-blooming perennial, with a peony, which is just breaking dormancy as the bluebells bloom, makes a striking statement, with the bright powder-blue of the Mertensia providing a superb background for the deep red stems and leaves on the emerging peony.
Similarly, many lilies (Lilium spp.) develop an array of purples and reds as they rise from the ground, and their upright habit is an excellent complement to lower growing perennials breaking dormancy. A carpet of Aster ‘Wood’s Purple’ can be plugged with lilies (such as Lilium ‘Purple Prince’) spaced every 18” or so, and the colored spikes of foliage and lacey texture will prove to be quite a display.
Numerous shrubs and trees break dormancy with gusto, often displaying glossy greens, reds, purples, and yellows. Red maple (Acer rubrum) will often show scarlet hues as it awakens, while the eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) features glossy, chartreuse leaves. The spike winterhazel shrub (Corylopsis spicata) not only blooms in the very early days of spring with fragrant, hanging clusters of green-yellow blossoms, but also displays crimson-red young leaves, eventually aging to a blue-green. It’s easy to get excited about spring, and overlook what’s already happening in the garden – be sure to get down and see those hibiscus, milkweed, false-indigo, Bowman’s root, and other small perennials, while also appreciating the larger trees and shrubs as they break out for the season!
Compiled by Cara L. Crocker