Winter Aconite and other blooms for March

Winter Aconite and other blooms for March

In temperate countries in the northern hemisphere, March is that time of the year when spring rouses from the slumber of winter, but it’s still not quite the time when you can predict the weather at all. In fact, you can think of March as the 3.00 AM of the year – it’s neither here, nor there. Only in April, does the weather pan out to become more predictable and stable.

Just as we have a term for March – March Madness, you could be forgiven if a few of your plantings suddenly go kaput as a result of the infamous March frost, or even get buried under snow (this happens in some areas), or worse still, storms, floods, and hurricanes come sweeping by for some less fortunate places. The mad weather is a result of the collision of warm air from the South coming up against cold air from the North. This clash of atmospheric conditions is often the cause of volatile storms.

And yet for all the unpredictable weather, spring is a period of joy and color. Spring is the time of growth, renewal, and color. For the gardener, spring is the time to enjoy the flowers springing forth in even the most unlikely of places, which previously escaped attention.

If you prepared a small flower bed last August, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the burst of color in March. Get a sheltered area somewhere near your front or back door. Better still if it’s a raised bed. A few bricks on the edge will provide more moisture and warmth.

You should make sure the flower bed gets some partial shade during the day, as the springtime sun can turn blazing hot in an instant. With little cloud in the sky, it can toast young shoots pretty fast. So having a small plot near the front or back door has it’s advantages in the shade provided by the house, as well as providing an encouraging sight to all that pass through the doors. Dinner guests will be enchanted as the front door light shines out on the emerging flowers, and seemingly offering them a warm welcome, even as the cold winds compel them to enter.

snow crocus
Snow Crocus

Some suitable spring flowers to plant, and a little on the Winter Aconite

There are at least 9 kinds of fast blooming bulbs/perennials which are able to bloom in March, and welcome the spring. These could be:

  • Snow Crocus (Crocus chrysanthus)
  • Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)
  • Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis)
  • Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
  • Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa gigantea)
  • Common Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
  • Sweet Violet (Viola odorata)
  • Bleedingheart (several species of Dicentra, like D. formosa and D. pauciflora)
  • Winter Aconite (Eranthus Hyemalis)
lenten rose
Lenten Rose or Hellebore

The last named, Winter Aconite (Eranthus Hyemalis), is a hardy perennial of the buttercup family growing to about 4-5 inches tall, and among the fastest species to bloom in spring. This buttercup has yellow blooms that are able to tolerate chilly weather, and can be taken as a sign that spring has arrived. In early season, it may even bloom while the climate is still not yet out of winter.

winter-aconite.jpg
Winter aconite

With Winter Aconite, as with ALL the spring blooms, try to make sure you plant them before autumn itself. This ensures the bulbs or perennials you have planted get their root systems going, while it is still relatively warm enough. When buying Winter Aconite bulbs, don’t be discouraged if it appears you have invested in a mere bundle of small dead roots. In spite of appearances, they are very much alive. Plant them immediately upon arrival, for they are actually ready to grow. Set them at 2 inches deep, 3 inches apart, and eighteen bulbs to a square foot. If planted in a partially sheltered bed, they will grow fast, and be ready to greet the spring in a blaze of glory…

After spring is over…

When the spring flowers are gone, what should you do? Try to fill in with zinnias, or marigolds. These will provide color for the flower bed throughout the summer right on till late autumn. So, although it may not be much use to plant them now, try planting these colorful blooms in late summer or early autumn, around August, and you’ll reap the rewards by spring next year.

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