Our yard’s first bloom of 2014 isn’t pasque flower or even dandelion. It is spring beauty.

One spring beauty flower

These ephemerals weren’t on my wish list when we visited Prairie Restorations last year, but it was late summer so my mind was filled with dreams of purple prairie clover and blazing star. Plus, I had never before seen them for sale.

But as soon as we came across the spring beauty section, I knew I needed to have them. I remember learning about all the local wildflowers in fourth grade and then searching for these short-lived, pale pink-striped blooms to pick to decorate the backyard climbing tree. No matter that the six-packs for sale looked like only dirt; I knew that because it was August, the flowers and even the leaves were long gone for the season but would come back.

Two spring beauty flowers

The “dirt” went into our shady garden, and uncharacteristically, I didn’t think of these native wildflowers again until I took the first trip to the backyard this week to see what survived the winter. My disappointment over not seeing bloodroot and trillium were forgotten when I saw one tiny pink flower, which has now turned into three, with many more buds getting ready to bloom.

Three spring beauty flowers

What a pretty spring surprise.

Spring beauty and more


The snow is gone (for now, at least), so I was hoping that today would be a good day for a state park hike, despite the weather forecast. No such luck: the rain started Saturday night and continued most of the day on Sunday.

But how can I be upset about rain? As all school kids know, April showers bring May flowers!

I’m looking forward to what this week’s rain will do to the flowers that are already emerging:

pearly everlasting shoots
Pearly everlasting
sedum shoots
turtlehead shoots
coral bells shoots
Coral bells
yarrow shoots
New England aster shoots
New England aster
hollyhock shoots
lilac buds

The lilac leaves are a good example of a Finnish word I learned today: hiirenkorvat, or spring buds.

four blooming hyacinths, forced bulbs

I’m one of the last people to complain about winter. Minnesota has four seasons, and I enjoy every one of them.

Still, it’s fun to dream about the time just two short months from now when the snow will (most likely) be gone and the first flowers will be poking out of the ground.

These hyacinth bulbs — a Christmas gift from my mom — make me antsy to start planting seeds indoors for our 2014 garden, though it’s much too early for that. I’ll need to be content to study our gardening books for now.

Linder’s garden center closed this fall after more than 100 years in St. Paul.

Plants growing in a garden: coreopsis, maroon coral bells, candytuft, wild geranium.

I won’t pretend that this is the only place I shop. In the Twin Cities area we’re fortunate to also have Gertens, Bachman’s, new-to-me Prairie Restorations in Princeton, the annual Friends School Plant Sale, and many more that I have yet to explore.

But this was my year-round neighborhood nursery.

Flowers growing in a garden: indigo, a single yellow flower, New England aster, pink turtlehead.

We received Linder’s gift cards as wedding and Christmas presents, and spent quite a bit of our own money there too. I never could seem to remember to bring back the empty pots or the carry-out boxes.

Five cardboard trays and two stacks of empty plastic plant pots.

We mostly bought perennials, trending the last year toward all natives.

Flowers in a garden: anemone, prairie smoke, evening primrose.

Also a couple of annuals each spring.

A pot with pink, purple, and yellow flowers; red cardinal climber flower vining up a trellis; orange marigold.

Grapes we planted just this summer.

A small grape plant next to a trellis.

And tomatoes: the first year we were married, we bought two six-packs, not realizing just how many tomatoes that would produce!

Tomato plants, small tomato growing on the plant, a row of various shades of tomatoes on a windowsill.

Seeds to grow our own annuals and perennials.


Not to mention seed for our “birdfeeder.”

A chipmunk with stuffed cheeks, sitting on the edge of a birdfeeder.

We also took advantage of their classes. A year ago we attended a fall workshop to learn how to deal with Japanese beetles, and early this spring took a “From Seed to Planting” seminar. We participants got an impromptu tour of the greenhouses to see all the newborn seedlings. By the next day, I was already looking forward to taking that tour again next spring.

Trays and trays of seedlings in a greenhouse.

Goodbye to the 53 flower marts in grocery store and mall parking lots around the Twin Cities. Goodbye to fun fundraising opportunities for nonprofits, which received 15% of the pre-tax purchase amount their supporters spent on spring flowers. Goodbye to Lil Linder’s cheerful voice on the radio commercials, and the “Get growing now with Linder’s” jingle. Goodbye to dashing in for last-minute Christmas gifts. I already miss you.

The sign outside Linder's showing the messages 'Store Closed' and 'Thank you for the memories.'