Winter Aconites: Plant The Earliest Flowers Where The Snow Melts First

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This spring has tested the hardiness of my hardy soul. I bet it’s tested yours, too, especially if you live in the Northern Plains and parts east that were bombarded by “Winter Storm Xanto”. In light of what my fellow cold climate gardeners are enduring, I’m not going to complain about my weather, which seems like it’s finally done with snow accumulation, even if it can’t string two mild days together. Yes, Spring has been slow to arrive, but it is arriving, one treasured flower at a time.

A slow spring highlights the need to have as many early flowers as possible. Remember: take pictures of where the snow melts first, and plant your earliest-blooming flowers there. As a cold climate gardener, this concept is so important to me that I decided to write a series of posts featuring the earliest blooming flowers. We have such a long winter; by the time it ends we are just hanging on by a thread. The sooner we have some flowers blooming, the sooner our spring fever eases. Yet so many gardeners are unaware of how many flowers bloom during mud season, that nebulous period which fluctuates between winter one day and spring the next. In this series I’m going to discuss them one genus at a time, starting with winter aconites.

Winter Aconites

Perhaps, like me, you’ve been frustrated by winter aconites (Eranthis spp.).

Winter aconites Eranthis hyemalis

Oh, how I love the sunshine of winter aconites! (Eranthis hyemalis)

After successfully growing them in high school, I never could get them established in my garden until a kind friend sent me some “in the green”. Later, when my sister moved to the Finger Lakes, they were growing like weeds at her new home–seeding into the lawn from the flower beds–and I begged some off of her. I’m at the point now where I really should get brave and divide them. I do see some seedlings as well, but they often get killed by naughty chickens scratching in my garden beds–or by the gardener who insists on planting one more thing.

Eranthis hyemalis Flore Pleno

I acquired this lovely thing a few years ago, but this is the first year it’s shown its semi-doubleness. (Eranthis hyemalis ‘Flore Pleno’)

It didn’t bloom for me until I moved it into a sunnier spot. Not that it gets full sun now, just more sun than it used to. Those seem to be the two key things about growing winter aconites: 1) get some from a patch that’s already doing well and 2) make sure they get enough sun to make a flower for next year. If you don’t know a gardener already growing them, try ordering some from Old House Gardens, which takes special care to make sure the corms don’t dry out. And after you manage to get a patch going, check out these other species and varieties.

Inspired by the words of Elizabeth Lawrence, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year,” Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from all over the world publish what is currently blooming in their gardens. Check it out at May Dreams Gardens.

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