slideshow: 8 favorite garden ephemerals

corydalis-solidaGET THEM WHILE THEY LAST: That’s the message with ephemerals, plants that are happy to pop up early, do their pretty thing, then tuck back in when the heat comes on. I grow a lot of them, brightening up the first weeks of a spring garden that would otherwise be mostly minor bulbs in April-into-May, meaning more pleasure out of the same space. Meet eight of my favorites (including Corydalis solida, above).

Click the first thumbnail to get started, then toggle from slide to slide using the arrows beside each caption:

  1. Joy says:

    I love the pictures ! what really grabbed my attention is that gorgeous yellow ,poppy ? .. the colour is so striking and wonderful to see at the beginning of the season .. very nice !!

  2. Sylvia (England) says:

    Margaret, these are lovely. Several that I must add to my list! Besides hostas do you have any other ideas for plants to follow these? I grow some ephemerals in the shade of a fence and this leaves gaps for the summer, I find they are better under shrubs.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Sylvia. I have lots of these among hellebores (since I cut off the foliage before they bloom, there is space among the clumps of H. orientalis for the ephemerals…then the new hellebore leaves fill in and hide the fading ephemerals). Also in between clumps of shady grass like Hakonechloa. Thinking of where else….hmmm…garden not “awake” yet to remind me. Ah, yes, beneath a stand of Angelica gigas (a biennial). And…

  3. Peg says:

    Thank you for the garden tour. It is windy and wet here today, but yesterday I spent three glorious hours in the garden cutting back the foliage of the hellebores and also the sword ferns. I live on Vancouver Island, so we are a bit ahead of your garden, perhaps.
    I tidied up a bit, as soon other plants will pop through and I feel sad when they are marred by rake marks on the new leaves. I always forget just where my hostas are planted – some are showing through now, but many more to come!
    Happy gardening!

  4. Grace says:

    These are beautiful. I’ve been looking for something just like these. I’ll have to investigate and see if they are zone 3 hardy. If so I have the perfect place to tuck them.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Heather, and yes, Asiatica has it. I can’t help with the price…sorry. But they have several species including japonicum. If you buy one, divide it after two years. It can take it…and you will soon have 10 or more. Hope to see you soon again.

      Welcome, Peg. Yes, you are ahead of me, and in one of the Earth’s spectacular spots. Beautiful. But it sounds like your hellebores and mine are not so far apart timewise. My first ones are stretching up this week to prepare to bloom, their foliage removed the last two or three days. Tada!

  5. leisa says:

    How lovely, wonderful way to spark our interest for spring bloomers. We are several weeks behind your bloom, with Galanthus and Aconites just now blooming. I eagerly await the 1st Dicentras.
    Thank you for this wonderful blog, it was great to discover, always enjoy you at MSL. This is even better!

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Leisa. I, too, am at snowdrop and winter aconite bloom time; these are all from last year. Sorry if that was not clear enough. But soon we will have it all again…the new season is just ahead. See you again, I hope.

  6. CovingtonKat says:

    Beautiful pictures! Love, love, love the corydalis…I have a purple-flowering (brandywine?) version which is very sprawl-ish and I’m always hesitant to cut her back…and lots of the yellow corydalis too – it is quite prolific but SOOOO sunny! In my garden, whatever slugs don’t enjoy, I plant more of…I do need to diversify though, and these are great ideas for some new plants to try – thanks!

  7. nicole lefaivre says:


    the Mount Royal is blue in Spring in Montreal.
    Are Siberian Scilla considered an ephemeral?

    Best regards

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Nicole. I didn’t include the early little bulbs (sometimes called minor bulbs), but rather just these perennials that mingle with them so nicely. The little bulbs plus little ephemeral perennials like these makes for a great combination. The display of blue you refer to sounds amazing…wow. Hope to see you soon again.

  8. Heather says:

    I took a deep breath & ordered a hylomecon – you’re right about the price but the shipping is worse! However, I have just the right spot so I’m looking forward to dividing it many times in the years to come.

  9. I love the virginia blue bells in spring!… Here is milwaukee.. the lake front mansions have thousands of them blooming!
    Along with the Scilla also… we still have some stubborn piles of snow that still want to hand on… OH spring where art thou! ??? I enjoy your blog immensely! Thanks for sharing all that you do!!


    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, GardenDesigner. Bluebells and squill are indeed breathtaking. I wanted to include them in my bulb slideshow, but I don’t have a display of my own to photograph. Guess I will have to get to work this fall, huh?

  10. ayo says:

    A wonderful spring ephemeral is the mayflower. I love it because every time I rake away the leaf mulch under trees, they thank me by turning into a wonderful flowering carpet within a week or two. Now I have to underplant the areas for after the mayflowers fade—woodland plants, here I come! Thank you for your inspirational “mosaics,” Margaret.

  11. ayo says:

    I was not referring to trailing arbutus–which I am told is a State Flower of Massachusetts. The “mayflower” to me is Maianthemum canadense also referred to by the very unromantic name of “cow parsnip”—maybe it’s edible?
    Apparently, there are other things people call mayflowers, too. They are everywhere on my wooded Berkshire land–and don’t mind deep shade. They form a lovely carpet of foliage with white spring flowers—like a minimalist version of lilly of the valley —without the overpowering perfume.
    I’m hoping if I plant hosta, ferns, and others things that will emerge later, it won’t crowd them out. This year, with the cool wet weather, they are still green in July. It almost makes up for the sorry state of some of my pots!

  12. Cathy Ruppert says:

    Just finished and I shall have some peace there…and have sent glowing recommendations to my gardening friends. Loved the book and the philosophy…I am about 10 years older than you, so have come to some of your wonderful revelations already, but especially related to the “neither here nor there-ness” of change…your’s is the kind of book that I have multiple paper markers in to re-read particular sentences. Will there be another book? Hope so.



    1. Margaret says:

      You are very, very kind, Cathy. How nice of you to write in and tell me so. Yes, the liminal phases of our lives can be so tricky. And I handed in the “next book” last Tuesday, so yes, another book in January 2013, heaven help me. Blessings meantime; see you here I hope.

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