The Vernal Equinox: It’s the First Day of Spring!

 

Today is the first day of spring! Woo-hoo…spring has sprung in the Mid-Atlantic gardening region. But quite honestly, we didn’t have much of a winter so we don’t really have the same enthusiasm as we had two years ago after “Snowapalooza”. But even still, it’s good to know that sustained warm temperatures are right around the corner. For those who don’t know, I’d like to quickly explain what determines our seasons on the calendar:

The Vernal Equinox – March 21 – SPRING – this is the first time in the calendar year when the hours of daylight and darkness are equal…12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.

The Summer Solstice – June 21 – SUMMER – this is the longest period of daylight in the year…from December 22 until June 21 the days get longer and longer.

The Autumnal Equinox – September 21 – AUTUMN – this is the second time in the calendar year when the hours of daylight and darkness are equal…12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.

The Winter Solstice – December 21 – WINTER – this is the shortest period of daylight in the year.

Plants are blooming like crazy now. The trees are blooming, the tulips, the forsythia, the grape hyacinths…you name it and it’s blooming. I thought that I would share a few pictures of the plants that are blooming in the central Virginia area.

Camellia (this one fell into a bed of creeping jenny)

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Redbud (Cercis canadensis

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Daphne odora

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Helleborus orientalis

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Flowering Almond (Prunus mume)

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I hope and pray that we don’t get a hard freeze now…that would be devastating to plants of all sorts. I remember that happening while I was a student at Virginia Tech. Trees had to have all sorts of branches removed as the freeze even killed much of the previous season’s growth. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen this year! What’s going on in your area? What plants are blooming in your hometown? Leave me a comment below or e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy gardening!

Plant Profile: Dwarf Iris (Iris reticulata)

 

Dwarf IrisThe official start of spring is less than 8 weeks away but most gardeners consider March 1 to be their beginning of spring. And it’s around this time of the year that you’ll find Iris reticulata, or Dwarf Iris, blooming in your garden if you’re fortunate enough to have a planting.

Dwarf Iris are delightful little early spring bloomers with purple to blue flowers with a yellow highlight on the falls. They are often seen poking through a light layer of late winter snow with no bother. At 6″-8″ tall, they can fit in nearly every garden and are often used in rock gardens. I think they look great along pathways or by doorways where they can be viewed up close. If allowed to naturalize into a colony, they can make quite a show even from afar.

Dwarf Iris require no special cultural conditions other than well-drained soil. They prefer full sun and that is easily achieved under deciduous trees even in an otherwise shady landscape. They will tolerate light to moderate shade but shouldn’t be planted underneath dense evergreens such as spruce or hemlock. Their foliage, as with other spring blooming bulbs, should be left intact until it turns brown on its own. With such a small stature, the drying foliage shouldn’t cause much of a distraction in the garden.

Dwarf Iris originate from a bulb instead of a rhizome like the popular German Iris. This makes it easy to propagate them to plant in other areas of the garden or to share with a friend. The bulbs should be planted in autumn so if you didn’t plant them last fall, you’ll have to wait a few more months before you can add them to your gardening palette.

Other noteworthy characteristics of these spring bloomers is that their blooms are fragrant and the plants are deer resistant. Remember, deer resistant doesn’t equal deer proof! Plant them in an area where their sweet fragrance can be enjoyed and you’ll be rewarded for years to come. If you have dwarf iris in your garden, leave me a comment below and let me know your experiences…you can also e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy gardening!