Sunday, May 12, 2019

Spring Garden Flowers

primrose, Primula
common primrose, Primula vulgaris, early spring wildflower of Europe
This is a blog post of flowers. If March is the beginning of spring, then it has been a long cold spring, because we have had snowstorm after snowstorm here in northern Colorado. We ushered in May with days of snow and cold rain alternating with sunny days. Consequently, I find myself unusually drawn to all the plants now blooming.
snow May 9, 2019
Snow May 9, 2019; the picture does not show that it snowed all night nor how cold the low was.
So please, enjoy garden flowers with me.

Top: the common primrose, Primula vulgaris (primrose family, Primulaceae). Found all over Europe, it is one of the first spring wildflowers in meadows and pastures there. It is not particularly happy in Colorado (too hot, too dry) but doing ok in the shade in my wettest spot. ("Vulgaris" simply means "common" in Latin but you can see how its English form, "vulgar" could have evolved.)

Sweet violets (Viola odorata, violet family Violaceae), from Europe. I bought them several times before they survived but they are now spreading. It is the only violet with a scent.

English violets, Viola odorata
sweet violets, Viola odorata

My property had the tulips below when I bought it. I've added several others
tulip, Tulipa
tulips, Tulipa
Periwinkle (Vinca, probably Vinca major, dogbane family Apocynaceae). Generally planted as a ground cover, they have some of the earliest spring flowers, then continue to flower, sometimes all summer. The color is so distinctive it is a color word, periwinkle. Primrose, from the color of the flowers in the first picture, is also used as a color name.
periwinkle, Vinca
periwinkle, Vinca species
Iris! (genus Iris, iris family, Iridaceae). There are hundreds of iris species, native around the world (Japan, Siberia, Italy, southeastern US, California...) and many many more cultivated varieties and hybrids. They are tricky as cut flowers because each flower only lasts a day.  In Japan, where the ephemerality of life is celebrated, that makes them particularly popular.

iris, genus Iris
Peonies (Paeonia species, peony family, Paeoniaceae) are big Old World flowers with a lovely scent (there are two California species but I do not think it is commercially available.) I have always loved them so I grow too many.

peony, Paeonia species
Peonies (Paeonia species)
Common lilacs (Syringa vulgaris, olive family, Oleaceae) have been planted across North America since at least the 1800s. I learned recently that the flowers are edible: for the few weeks they are available, grace your salads with them (for example link).

lilac, Syringa
common lilac, Syringa vulgaris
Like life, gardens are always in flux. Plants die, others are added. These are some of the international spring flowers I love. Next week, some of the American spring flowers I watch for.

Comments and corrections welcome.

Blog posts I wrote with more information on the species above:

common primrose: Reasons to like primroses link
         More reasons to like primroses link
         Primroses, Primula, post script  link
tulips: Tulips and the tulip bubble  part 1 link
                                                        part 2 link

periwinkle: The merry periwinkle, Vinca link

iris: All the colors of the rainbow link

peonies: Peonies from Europe link
               Peonies from the Orient link

lilacs: Lovely lilacs link

Read similar stories in my books: 
Curious Stories of Familiar Garden Plants
Curious Stories of Familiar Plants from Around the World 
both available on Amazon link

Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist


  1. Thank you for sharing

  2. This blog is such a great source of interesting facts that would improve any garden tour! Primrose is a color. Lilacs are edible. Who knew these fun facts? TY.