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