The first spring flower

By Tom Seymour | Mar 11, 2021
Photo by: Tom Seymour Coltsfoot, the first wildflower of spring.

The first spring wildflower has already begun blooming. On Feb. 25, I visited a south-facing site where coltsfoot grows and not exactly to my amazement, I found the bright-yellow blooms of coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara in evidence.

I visit this site every year when spring fever conjures thoughts of warmer days spent amid plants both domestic and wild. The place is a steep bank, so steep that hardly anything else can grow there. But coltsfoot somehow manages to not only survive, but thrive.

The reason for coltsfoot being able to make it here while other plants cannot is because of how its seed is distributed. A dandelion relative and passable look-alike, coltsfoot’s tiny seeds are borne on little, fluffy, white “parachutes.” These wind-blown devices, gossamer and delicate, land on the damp bank in late summer and stick to it long enough for the seed to germinate and the nascent plant to set out tiny roots.

While usually considered only a much-neglected wildflower, coltsfoot has its uses around our properties, given certain conditions.

If you have a rough area, perhaps a steep, roadside bank where nothing will grow, coltsfoot can not only add color (by the blooms) and form (by the large, horseshoe-shaped leaves), but it can help control erosion.

Coltsfoot seed is easy to disperse. Just wait until August (or September, depending upon where you live), gather a bag of the white, seed parachutes and then back home, wait for the breeze to blow toward the bank. Either wet the bank first, or do it on a drizzly day. Then scatter your seeds to the wind. That’s it. No covering with dirt, no cultivating. Just wait for the next spring to view your early blooming wildflowers.

Even if you don’t introduce coltsfoot to your property, make it a point to get to know it. Look for a gravelly, south-facing area and see if you don’t spy small, bright-yellow blossoms. It’s a real cabin-fever reliever. For me, once I spot the first blooming coltsfoot, I know spring, though unofficial, has arrived.

Greenhouse offerings

My friend Alice has announced that the greenhouse where she works was getting its first shipment of plants the first week of March. For me, an early trip to the greenhouse, any greenhouse, buoys my spirits. The smells of fresh soil and that “greenhouse” scent of growing plants is almost cloying.

It is tempting to pick up a few potted plants at your first outing, but here is one good reason to hold off for just a little while.

The young, potted plants you see in the greenhouse are newly sprouted seedlings and have only just began to grow. So unless you have conditions similar to a greenhouse, it is best to wait, so that the plants can grow to their full potential in the healthy, greenhouse environment.

If the plants you want are much in demand, it might make sense to pay ahead and have the greenhouse hold them until a later date. That way you won’t need to worry about stiving with other gardeners for that last pot or two of the desired plant.

There are a few things we can buy now from our local greenhouse that will do nicely indoors until later in spring, where they can then go out to the garden to bloom again next year.

Easter lilies, those fragrant, white lilies we see around Easter time are perennial flowering bulbs and as such, can be set out and will come back year after year. Knowing this, it seems a pity that so many people simply throw their Easter lilies out after they have finished blooming.

When the time comes to set your Easter lilies out, choose the sunniest spot you can find and then, every year add to the collection. Eventually, you will have a small, Easter lily garden that you can be thoroughly proud of.

Next, your greenhouse probably has some blooming primroses in stock. The primrose family, Primulaceae, has many members and all have their own virtues.

Primrose flowers have five, flat-faced petals that can be all of one color or, may have a different-colored face. My favorite has red petals and a small, yellow face. After blooming, plant outside in partial sun or light shade, in rich, moist soil. Take care not to overwater, because that can kill the plant or at least, set it back greatly. But don’t let it fully dry out either, or they will go dormant, in which case the fall rains will bring them back.

Primroses are plants of a naturally cool climate, perfect for Maine. Later, if you really like the primrose clan, head back to the greenhouse and check out other varieties. You may become hooked on primrose, and that’s not a bad thing.

Tom Seymour of Frankfort is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, Registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist and book author.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Lucinda Lang | Mar 12, 2021 09:41

Hello PLEASE please please  YIKES   COLTSFOOT is INVASIVE. damaging dangerous plant ..https://www.maine.gov/dacf/mnap/features/invasive_plants/invsheets.htm

 



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