Native Plants that Bring Me Joy in the Spring

By Sharleen Pratt, Master Gardener in Training

One of the joys of living in Canada is that we get to witness the rebirth of spring. I love to watch the plants emerge from the ground after a long hard winter and peruse my garden to see what has survived and sometimes shed a tear over the ones that haven’t.

Native plants have evolved over time. It can be confusing and we must remember that not all plants that grow in the wild are native. For instance, dandelions arrived in North America with the European settlers. Generally, native plants are those that grew in a region long before European settlement. They are easy to grow and will almost always survive.

Here are four native plants in my garden that return each spring and bring me great joy!

WILD GINGER, Asarum canadenseWildGinger

This plant is a lovely groundcover that likes full to partial shade. It has lovely heart-shaped leaves and if you look closely in the early spring, you will find a maroon coloured flower hidden under the foliage. It grows well under my birch tree and I find it is well behaved and spreads slowly. It does require moisture and will wilt quickly during the long hot summer.

WOOD POPPY, Stylophorum diphyllum

WoodPoppyA few years back on a gardening bus trip, we were gifted with a small wood poppy from a fellow Master Gardener. It is a lovely plant with irregular lobed leaves that range in colour from light to dark green. This poppy requires shade and prefers moist conditions or the leaves may wither. You will be thrilled with the lovely yellow blooms that appear in late spring. It grows to about 1 ½ feet tall into a small, bushy plant. They readily self-sow in ideal conditions such as moist woodlands, but in my garden I have never found more than a few babies.

BLOODROOT, Sanguinaria canadensis

BloodrootYou know that spring has arrived when you are thrilled with the appearance of bloodroot’s cheerful white flowers that open during the day and close at night. The leaves are clasped to the stem and slowly unfurl to reveal large, saucer-shaped but deeply scalloped foliage. It is very effective as a groundcover and prefers rich, moist woodland soil. It will tend to go dormant in the hot summer months. You will notice the roots’ red juice, hence the name. The sap was used by Native Americans for dyes. We are lucky in Peterborough to have a beautiful mural of Bloodroot under the Hunter Street bridge that was painted by Jill Stanton.

PASQUE FLOWER, Anemone patens

PasqueThis is a very interesting plant due to its large bloom in relation to the overall size of the plant. The Pasque flower has a silky, hairy, fern-like foliage and erect open bell-shaped lavender flowers. The foliage is deeply divided. It is not that fussy about soil conditions. It generally requires full sun but mine does well in sun with partial shade. It grows to about 12 inches and is well behaved. It is a beautiful spring addition to the garden, but like the bloodroot, it may go dormant in the hot summer months. Pasque comes from Old French for Easter in reference to the spring bloom time. All Anemone plants come from the Latin meaning sway as the flowers sway in the wind

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