2014-04-17 / From The Garden

Spring Flowers for Easter and Beyond

By Cynthia Gibson

Pasqueflower. Pasqueflower. With winter quickly receding and the spring holidays upon us, the ever-lovely Easter lily can be found in abundance at our local garden centers and supermarkets. Lilium longiflorum is the botanical name for the elegant trumpet-shaped flower whose crisp white color makes it a symbol of purity, hope and rebirth. Beyond its beauty, the lily also has a delicate perfume like no other.

L. longiflorum is native to the southern islands of Japan, but this symbol of Easter is also known as the Bermuda lily because the bulbs were cultivated there for years and were then shipped to the United States. However, the federal government’s agricultural agency began a breeding program in this country in 1903 because the imported bulbs brought the danger of contagious plant diseases. Today, Michigan and California are the two largest producers. The graceful lily is now the fourthlargest potted flower crop in the United States, following poinsettias, mums and azaleas.

The Easter Lily, also known by its Latin name Lilium longiflorum has become the traditional Easter flower. The Easter Lily, also known by its Latin name Lilium longiflorum has become the traditional Easter flower. Follow these tips to keep your Easter lily in fine condition and to insure that all buds will open:

Keep the plant out of direct sunlight.

Water the lily only when the soil is dry. Over-watering will rot the bulb.

After blooming, find a sunny location in your garden and plant the bulb six inches into the soil. It will grow and rebloom for up to three years.

The little known pasqueflower is another harbinger of spring. This breed is not well known in New England, as it grows wild on the prairies of South Dakota. It proliferates there to such a degree that it has been designated as the Mount Rushmore State’s official flower. With bright purple petals, the blossoms are among the first to appear in the spring, often before the late winter Midwest snow cover has melted. Its name reflects the timing of its arrival, with “pasque” being a reference to Easter and Passover.

Pussy willows are also a springtime favorite for arrangements and bouquets. The annual debut of the pussy willow’s chinchilla-soft catkins (its flowers) announces that spring has arrived. Especially popular in Germany and Eastern Europe, branches are often handed out on Palm Sunday.

Germans have a tradition of making Easter egg trees by placing stems of pussy willow in a vase and then adorning the branches with hand-decorated and dyed eggs. They are very charming and make a lovely holiday centerpiece. In Germany, this “Osterbaum” is just as important as the Christmas tree. The parents of some lucky children decorate the pussy willow with chocolate eggs and rabbits tied with colorful ribbons.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Of course, the daffodil is one of our most familiar local spring flowers and is usually in bloom around Easter. It, too, is a symbol of renewal and rebirth. The daffodil’s earthly fragrance is truly welcome after a long cold winter. Adding daffodils to a centerpiece provides a bright shot of color to accent twigs of pussy willow. They make a stunning duo.

Be sure to take a tour of Newport to view the thousands of new flowers planted since last fall by an army of volunteers working through the Daffodillion campaign. The golden hue of the mass of plantings is breathtaking.

We can’t forget tulips, which always make a splash on Easter luncheon tables. Since the winter was so cold, they are a bit late popping out of the ground this year, but by April 20 the early tulips ( T. clusiana) should be out and many of the long-stemmed varieties will be in tight bud, ready to pop. The best thing about tulips is that many of them resemble colorful eggs on green stems.

Receiving a pot of tulips as a holiday gift is always a “two-fer”! You can enjoy the flower in bloom and then plant the bulbs along with your lilies to enjoy when they rebloom next spring. Plant the tulips at least six inches deep in a sunny location in your garden.

Another springtime joy is the hyacinth. It is magnificent and the fragrance is not to be believed. The bluer the hyacinth, the more beautiful it seems to be. Blue flowers can be difficult to find, and this breed rings all of the bells. However, if you are not a fan of blue, hyacinths also come in shades of pink, white and yellow.

It is wonderful that our florists create striking arrangements for Easter and the Passover festival. The colorful displays look gorgeous on a front hall table or dining room sideboard.

Supermarkets carry huge arrays of flowers of all types, particularly at Easter. For the do-it-yourselfers, this can be a good choice for buying springtime flowers. For gardeners, simply cut your pussy willow branches now and get ready to pick your own daffodils starting this week.

You can also depend on our local garden centers to offer an enchanting selection of bouquets and planters, as well as baskets of flowers such as daffodils and pansies. Maher Garden Center on Aquidneck Avenue in Middletown has pussy willow available for $5 per bundle.

The Easter season is a glorious time of year. Even the sunshine by itself adds a spring to your step. When you add a few chocolate eggs, lovely daffodils, and a Sunday holiday luncheon into the mix, you know that spring is finally here.

Return to top