Spring is greening from the ground up. The thunderstorm with lighting last week jump started the lawns and turned them green just about overnight. Still, for some lawns, it may be awhile before you need to bring out the mower.
Next up and out of the ground, spring bulbs and signs of our perennials and ephemerals. Bulbs are clever, showing up with just foliage in case of an unexpected freeze, leaving the flower heads to follow some days later unharmed. Even then, those flower heads can survive a light frost before they get the chance to open-up.
Perennials and ephemerals are right there following the bulbs. They also will be testing the weather with just a small portion foliage emerging at first. This works for a couple of reasons –that foliage is more tender than the bulb foliage and is easily damaged by a frost or late, light freeze, but perhaps more importantly, the rabbits only get to eat that little bit and not a lot more. As time goes on and there is more available for the rabbits to eat, the perennials get to grow. I did an experiment one spring and fenced off the perennial bed and was amazed to see the amount of growth from the perennials without any rabbit feeding. It is not too late to try that if you can get out there ASAP. Fence out the entire bed or create individual cylinders for each plant if you do not have too many.
Continuing in size, your shrubs are next. Alpine currant is an early grower with green leaves and even lighter pale green flowers which mostly go unnoticed unless you are looking. Most other shrubs have bud swell going on, signaling growth has begun for 2020. If you are looking for flower buds, only those shrubs that created the buds last summer will be there and those are the shrubs that bloom early in the season like lilacs, forsythia and nearly all the viburnums. That is why we get to enjoy spring twice if branches are cut and forced inside the home during late February and March. Our other shrubs will be creating flower buds this spring and will be blooming later. Spirea is a good example of this and of why doing dormant pruning does not impact the 2020 bloom show. Looking a little higher, we will be seeing flowering crabapples and magnolias starting later.
About the author: Richard Hentschel’s expertise extends across several subject areas with specialties in lawn care, fruit tree production, woody ornamentals, and home and community gardening. During his 45-year career in horticulture and agriculture, Hentschel became a well-known and respected expert for commercial and homeowner audiences, industry organizations, and media. He retired from University of Illinois Extension in April 2022 with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.