These short-lived flowers, which are the first to bloom each year, are the reason I love spring best. They’re such a fun sight after a long winter.

Rue anemone’s purple swirled leaves just after emergence:

five purple stems with leaves whorled at the top, some with flower buds

Two weeks later, the leaves are green and there are more flowers than previous years:

four plants with paw-shaped leaves and white flowers with about eight petals apiece

Only one or two hepatica flowers opened – they’ve never bloomed well in our garden:

one pale pink flower, not fully open

Its leaves always look nice after the flowers are done, though:

10 three-lobed leaves bending out like a fountain from a single source

Tiny, delicate spring beauty:

four pale pink flowers with purple stripes, two with bugs, and many buds

Merry little bellworts:

two open yellow flowers and one yet to bloom

Wild ginger with its strange little flowers hidden under its big leaves:

dark purple flower with three long petals, on the ground in moss, with two large light-green leaves providing a canopy

These violets are native, but I know how much they spread, so I attempted to contain them when I moved some to the front yard by planting them in a pot:

a large green pot planted in the ground filled with violet leaves and purple flowers

That apparently didn’t work, since there is a new plant now growing just inches away:

the same pot viewed from above, farther away to show a small plant to the lower right

Trillium sessile:

purple petals standing straight up above three spotted leaves

I’m so antsy for these showy trilliums to bloom:

two trilliums with white buds about to open

And soon, there will be jack-in-the-pulpit and wild geranium.

It feels like spring has been here for so long, but really, it’s just that the snow has been gone for so long. Plants started popping out of the ground several weeks ago, but they didn’t do much until the last week because we’ve had several freezes and even a couple of snow flurries as recently as two weeks ago.

goldenrod seedling with frost on many leaves

In the meantime, I’ve already been to Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in Minneapolis three times! I had to get a glimpse of some flowers – like my favorite, bloodroot, which for some reason does not grow in our yard (despite my attempts every year).

four open regular-sized bloodroots and one much smaller

Finally, after some warm temperatures, there are a couple of blossoms in our woodland garden, too. (Much more on those another day.) Can we say that spring is truly here? I really think so – though I’m trying to be realistic and remember that it snowed the first week of May, four years ago.

golden alexanders seedling with lots of small leaves

I’ve been so antsy to get out into the garden, but I’ve been holding off so I don’t trample the ground where bees are hibernating. I’ve been mostly keeping to the edges of the garden and peeping as far as I can see – but I just can’t resist taking a closer look any longer. Bees are out now, anyway.

Purple coneflower:

many old stalks with several small leaves

Stiff goldenrod:

two large new plants

Cup plant:

medium-green toothed leaves right at the ground

Spiderwort:

two dozen plants that look like wide grass

Bee balm:

two dozen short plants with leaves unfurling at the tops of the stems

Turtlehead:

many very small, thin leaves standing straight up

I think yellow coneflower, yarrow, and purple giant hyssop will compete this year for the plant that has spread the most:

coneflower - small green leaves, in a wide line instead of a circle

yarrow - many light-green leaves that look like little ferns

hyssop - four small clumps of the same type of plant

Phlox – which came out of the ground very purple, a phenomenon that an Instagram friend says is due to a pigment that protects plants from UV rays. It has already begun to turn green:

very small deep purple seedlings, and the same plant two weeks later, much larger and green

Several unknowns, including this one in the jack-in-the-pulpit spot that I fear is invasive creeping bellflower:

three short green plants with long wide toothed leaves

Is this the year our cardinal flower finally succeeds?

tightly packed green leaves five inches wide

We seem to have our first failure of the year, pasqueflower, which I have not spotted where it should be. But soon, we’ll have more flowers than we can keep track of. Spring is the most wonderful time of the year. (No need to remind me of that statement in six months, when I will claim – again – that autumn is the most beautiful time of the year.)

Is it time to remove the dead flower stalks and debris from last year, like on this sedum? Or is it still too early for hibernating insects that may be sleeping inside?

sedum leaves that look like flowers, with old stalks rising between them

Insects aren’t the only living creatures in our yard. We also saw animals – or evidence of animals – all last summer, though without a zoom lens, it’s hard to get good pictures.

I never get too upset when I see cute baby rabbits, as long as I don’t remember that they will grow up to eat so much of our garden. I startled this tiny one (no bigger than my hand) by moving a flowerpot he was hiding behind. He hunkered down in the grass for a minute and then in his haste to find safety, he crashed straight into my foot.

small rabbit hunkered down low in the grass

Rabbit sampling a pot of flowers:

rabbit sniffing moss roses, with zinnias and ornamental kale in the same pot

If only they would stick to eating the dandelions!

rabbit with a long dandelion stem hanging from its mouth

I was endlessly entertained by watching them first pick the dandelions at the ground, then chew from the bottom up.

A hawk – which is in our neighbor’s tree, but it hangs over our yard:

large mostly brown bird facing away, on a thin branch

It made such an interesting sound:

Evidence of some kind of altercation:

five large dark feathers and many small gray feathers

Even pesky squirrels have to eat:

squirrel hanging upside-down from a birdfeeder that is cracked open from the strain

Mole damage in the backyard:

four dirt patches in the grass

A mole making its way underground:

Vole? Shrew?

small gray animal mostly hidden behind calendula leaves

Birds in the vegetables:

two birds in the kale, one bird on a short fence next to lettuce

Whew! Finished this bugs-and-beyond series before spring truly got underway, though plants are already sprouting. Now I am ready to start looking at the 2016 garden.

More bugs and critters:

A number of bugs from last summer’s garden don’t fit into any category I’ve used so far. I’m not making any judgments about whether these are “good bugs” or “bad bugs.”

candy-striped leafhopper:

skinny red and baby blue bug with yellow face and legs

lacewings:

skinny green bug with long antennae and two big clear wings, obvious on a butterflyweed

same bug, nearly invisible on a milkweed leaf

sawfly larva (and hollyhock leaves they’ve damaged), and sawfly adult:

three light green caterpillars on a leaf with the top layer removed in several spots; short and stout black fly with an orange head

inchworm:

small gray worm crawling down the cone of a black-eyed susan

grasshopper – every time I see this photo, at first I wonder why I took a picture of woodchips:

large grasshopper that nearly perfectly matches the grayish color of the woodchips he's standing on

evidence of a spittlebug:

pile of tiny bubbles holding two goldenrod leaves together

slugs (not bugs, but I’m including them here anyway):

damaged squash vine with the top half curled back in both directions, and two slugs sitting on the bottom half

mayfly:

skinny bug with a big head and two tails, longer than the body, nearly forming a 90-degree angle, on a window screen

four-lined plant bug, and its damage:

short bug with black and fluorescent green stripes and a black hind end, and leaves of a black-eyed susan with dozens of small black spots

I thought this was an earwig, but now I’m not sure whether those are pincers at the top:

a medium-length black bug head-down at the base of a leaf, with two spikes sticking out of the tail end

wee harlequin bug:

two shiny shield-shaped black-and-garnet bugs, connected at the tail end, in a pasqueflower seedhead

ants on a peony:

17 small dark-brown ants on a closed peony bud

one small ant in the middle of an open white peony blossom with bright pink streaks

ants on the move:

More bugs and critters:

Finally continuing the bee retrospective, after honeybees and bumblebees last week; I have a tentative ID for more of these than I thought.

Ground-nesting bee throwing a dandelion seed out of the way before getting back to business:

Video link

 

Entrance to a ground nest:

small hole in a the dirt/woodchips

Bee on yellow coneflower:

possibly honeybee covered in pollen, at the top of the cone heading down to the right

Resin bee on bee balm:

very small black bee at the edge of the center

Resin bees on autumn joy sedum:

Video link

 

Some kind of metallic bee on tiny monster geranium:

small, shiny green bee

Paper wasps on stiff goldenrod:

many paper wasps, and one hoverfly, on smooth goldenrod

Video

 

Great black wasp, skittish and way bigger than the honeybees that were also climbing this culver’s root. This photo is in shade; it looked iridescent blue in the sunshine:

very big wasp with its wings folded behind, holding tightly to culver's root

Wasp on stiff goldenrod:

smaller black wasp with its wings stretched out

Wasp on baptisia:

possibly paper wasp climbing up the stem of baptisia

Weevil wasp on pearly everlasting:

wasp with black-and-yellow stripes curved on top of a small white flower

There were four green sweat bees crammed inside this hollyhock blossom. One bee decided to sleep between two petal “sheets” instead:

bee with a green head looking at the camera between two outer petals of a light pink flower

Megachile centuncularis on baptisia:

bee from behind with its head in a flower, abdomen covered in pollen, feet dangling below

same bee from the side, about to climb into a blossom

Bee in a squash blossom:

small orange bee standing on the stigma

Unknown on golden alexanders:

small black-and-white bee climbing toward the camera

 

More bugs and critters: