May Natives: Flashy, Until They’re Not

May is the showiest month in my garden. A lot of flowers bloom, including many natives. Which one is my favorite? The one I am standing in front of at that moment.

Take Dutchman’s breeches, for example. It’s in the same family as bleeding hearts, but far more ephemeral. They started breaking ground the first week of April, were blooming by the beginning of May, and completely gone by the end of May. That’s just two months of the year aboveground.

Dutchman’s breeches, the second early flower in this small flower bed, which they share with daylilies, daffodils, and crocuses. Photographed on May 1, 2022.

The Dutchman’s breeches abut a stand of trillium in a bed full of ephemera; they are done blooming by the time the trillium start.

From left to right: Dutchman’s breeches, trillium, and dwarf Japanese Solomon’s seal, which has not yet unfurled its leaves. The reddish plant is the lower right corner is rue anemone.

Rue anemone blooms in mid-April within a week of coming up, before the plants turn green. The red coloration fades slowly as they go through May.

The rue anemone that borders the trillium has faded to a light pink, but will last another week or two. Photographed on May 12, 2022.

Mid-May seems to mark the transition from spring ephemera to perennials. A short-lived perennial, eastern columbine, seeds in where it wants, and I generally leave it wherever it lands. This year, it landed in the rue anemone, next to the dwarf Japanese Solomon’s seal.

These rue anemone get a little more sun and are already turning white, making a terrific backdrop for the eastern columbine. Photographed on May 11, 2022.

Eastern columbine is neither tall nor long-blooming in this yard, but it is splashy when it lands in the right spot.

Eastern columbine with dwarf Japanese Solomon’s seal in front, Iris cristata, the lavender flowers, behind them, and ostrich fern in the back. Photographed on May 17, 2022.

The Iris cristata are dependable as ever. They do best with some sun, but not too much. They get leggy and do not bloom well in full shade.

Iris cristata enjoy dappled sunlight. Photographed on May 17, 2022.

On the other hand, serviceberries and redbud are quite happy with a full half-day of sunlight. The serviceberry starts the month leafing out and flowering at the same time. The redbud follows mid-month.

Redbud blooms first, then starts to leaf out. Photographed on May 14, 2022.

By mid-May, the native spring ephemera are winding down, as are the spring bulbs. The bigger longer-lived plants are  actively growing. It starts to feel like summer is coming, as is the Purple Period.