2017-04-06 / From The Garden

Spring Flowers Sure to Arrive

By Cynthia Gibson

With the vestiges of winter finally disappearing and the spring holidays upon us, many are wondering where the flowers are. Fear not, they may be slow in coming, but they will be here in due time. Meanwhile, our local garden centers, florists and supermarkets have springtime flowers in great supply, ready to decorate homes and holiday tables.

The ever-lovely Easter lily can be found in abundance. 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 Easter symbol is also known as the Bermuda lily. The bulbs were cultivated there for years and then shipped to the United States. 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 fourth largest potted flower crop in the United States, following poinsettias, mums and azaleas.

To keep your Easter lily in fine condition and enjoy the plant as long as possible, keep it out of direct sunlight and water 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 deep. It will grow and bloom for up to three years.

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 candy rabbits tied with colorful ribbons.

The daffodil, one of our most familiar and favorite local spring flowers, is usually in bloom around Easter. The daffodil’s fresh fragrance is especially 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 later this month 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 plantings will be breathtaking.

We can’t forget tulips, which always make a splash on Easter luncheon tables, which are available at local vendors ready to set a springtime mood. 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 come again next spring. Remember to plant the tulips at least six inches deep in a sunny spot in your garden.

Another springtime joy is the hyacinth. The explosion of color is magnificent and the fragrance is not to be believed; its scent carries many of us back to our youth. 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. The colorful displays look gorgeous on any 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. Gardeners might want to wait to cut pussy willow branches until closer to daffodil time.

Local garden centers offer an enchanting selection of bouquets and planters, as well as baskets of flowers ready for gift giving.

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.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

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