Spring blooms on the march

Beckie Fox

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Thank goodness for spring. Daily walks through our garden reveal new flowers, new buds, new growth. It’s too early to clear away protective mulches and start digging in most parts of Canada, but it’s the perfect time to relish nature’s beauty as it unfolds.

'Katharine Hodgin' iris
‘Katharine Hodgkin’ iris blooms in early spring.

Over the years, I’ve planted dozens of ‘Katharine Hodgkin’, a type of reticulata iris, in our turf-free front garden and they never fail to shoulder their way through a layer of leaf mulch, blooming before species tulips, daffodils and most crocus. Their petals are an unusual faded lavender-blue with purple spots on bright yellow at their base. See “Earliest Iris” for more about lovely Katharine and other early irises.

'Dawn' viburnum
‘Dawn’ viburnum flowers are fragrant; fall foliage is deep burgundy.

Also in full bloom are three ‘Dawn’ viburnums (V. x bodnantense ‘Dawn’) with clusters of sweetly fragrant small, tubular pink flowers. These are gangly shrubs, and they sit at the edge of an informal area in the back where they can play supporting roles after flowering.They star again in fall when their leaves turn deep burgundy-red.

The hellebore show looks set to begin, too, and I can’t wait. This is the kind of exponential growth we welcome.

Starting begonia tubers

Some of you may have already started your begonia tubers, but for those of you who haven’t, there’s still time. Standard advice is to give the tubers an early start indoors in a sunny window or under lights six weeks before the last expected spring frost. For more guidance on how to grow these beauties, read “Starting Tuberous Begonias” and “Growing Tuberous Begonias.”

Learn more about native shrubs

This 43-minute video of an academic’s presentation on native shrubs for the landscape industry may not be as entertaining as the latest Monty Don show, but it’s packed with information. Although aimed at the landscape industry, “From the Wild to the Landscape: Developing Native Shrubs for the Green Industry” will interest avid gardeners who want to learn more about native shrubs.

Sharing photos from Canada Blooms

Several people have shared photos on social media taken at Canada Blooms the day before it was set to open March 13. Unfortunately, like so many events, the show was cancelled due to COVID-19. Toronto Gardens has posted a collection of images that highlight many of the wonderful gardens, floral displays and other exhibits gardeners missed.

Birds might help

“When you’re ready for a moment of beauty, or a child needs something new to focus on, bring birds’ innate joy and hope into your life.” That’s the timely — and comforting — message found at “All About Birds” by Cornell Lab.

Part of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, the lab has gathered a list of links to live cams where you can follow nesting owls and other birds, virtual birding videos, bird quizzes and games, guides to identifying birds, and various nature-focused activities for children. 

I scored 86% when I played “Bird Song Hero” and am feeling rather chuffed about that.

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