After the warm spell in February, it returned to more seasonal weather and even snowed a bit. The snow didn’t last long, and then we were in a long stretch of the awkward time period when it was still cold but not quite winter and not yet spring. I was pretty jealous of all of my Instagram friends’ posts of early-spring blooms, when everything was still completely brown in my yard.

tall stem of blazingstar from last year, brown stem on a brown background

Then one night it rained, and suddenly there was a small patch of pearly everlasting and what I assume to be Canada goldenrods.

a few purplish-green plants and a few light green plants

(In the two weeks since, these have multiplied.)

many skinny green plants and many other stout green plants, much more similar in color this time

I traveled to the backyard and when brushing away the leaf layer, I found spring beauty leaves that were growing unnoticed.

several skinny grasslike leaves, some with bunches of tightly closed buds

And lots and lots of violets, which are taking over the woodland garden — proving once again that just because a flower is native, it doesn’t mean that it’s desired everywhere.

10 clumps of violet leaves growing close together with no other flowers visible

Since I’m still waiting on blooms in my own garden, I headed to Eloise Butler’s garden on April 8 to see some. Things seemed to be a week behind where they were last year. First, hepatica:

six-petal white leaves on skinny stems with no visible leaves

then snow trillium…

seven small trillium flowers and many leaves without flowers

…and skunk cabbage.

three purple skunk cabbages close together

When I got home, when I was still in the car in the driveway, I saw my first butterfly of the season, a red admiral. (But I scared it off before I could get close enough for a photo.) Later that evening, in the woodland garden, I saw one ant, three worms, and unfortunately, two mosquitoes. A full, 70-degree day.

Just three days later, it snowed, showing how fickle spring can be. Of course, it all melted within hours.

pointy iris leaves with water drops at the tips, poking out of wet snow

The plants that were emerging in February seem to be okay now, if not quite normal. They’re growing around last year’s stems, which are still in place. I won’t remove them until it gets a little warmer, just in case insects are still hibernating.

Here’s sedum; I think the smaller, purply leaves are the February ones that have been stunted, while the bigger ones are new. And the middle of this plant seems to be digging itself up.

two big green sedum leaves at the left, with a dozen smaller purplish leaves to the right, roots visible in a hole

The pink turtlehead is fine…

more than a dozen green, tall, skinny stems with purplish leaves standing straight up

and the white one is finally growing after taking awhile to get started, almost as if it were nervous to start growing in case the temperatures plummeted again.

a dozen very skinny two-inch stems with tightly bound leaves, and many more stems that are less than an inch

And the cup plant looks really good.

two dozen plants, each with several unfurling leaves

One night I saw a bat fluttering around in the twilight, swooping back-and-forth and up-and-down in front of my window for about 10 minutes until it got too dark for me to see it anymore. Birds have showed up, too, such as goldfinches and robins.

With all the rain this week and warm temperatures forecast for the weekend, we’re about to see an explosion of plant growth. Looks like hepatica might be the first one to bloom — and I’m thrilled to finally see so many of these buds, since in past years there were only one or two. (Spring beauty is getting close to opening, too.)

nine drooping white nearly-open buds on hairy stems but no leaves

I’ve wanted to create a list of all the plants in my garden for several years, and the time is now. I’m recording them as they appear this season.

There are many plant sales around the Twin Cities each year, but for me, the plant sale is the Friends School Plant Sale.

two rows of plants in front of a building highlighting state fair performers

It’s held on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Mother’s Day weekend every year at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. I was introduced to the sale in 2009 by a coworker who volunteers every year, and I now know several more volunteers. In my neighborhood, several people shop at this sale every year.

The sale is so big that it takes place both inside the grandstand…

people shopping in the perennials section

and outside the grandstand. Mornings are a very busy time, when wristbands are needed to control entry so it’s not too crowded, but afternoons and evenings have been manageable when we’ve gone.

native plants section in the front, then trees and shrubs, near a large ramp into the grandstand

Today we headed straight for the native plants section.

rose vervain and bird's foot violet for sale, with a sign that says Good For Bees

So this is what cardinal flower looks like. Definitely not what’s growing in our front yard.

many four-packs of small green plants

Darn, the bluebells were sold out (to be restocked on Saturday).

sign marking the Virginia bluebells section, 4-inch pot for $6, with a sticker that says Sold Out More On Saturday

One of our choices:

pots with plants and an Early Meadow Rue sign in the background

Our other purchases:

  • poke milkweed
  • hello yellow milkweed (have to admit I’ve never heard of this one)
  • whorled milkweed
  • showy milkweed
  • meadow blazing star
  • dotted blazing star
  • cream wild indigo
  • broccoli
  • several heirloom tomatoes

Now, how long will it take us to get these planted?

looking down at 13 plants in a cardboard flat in a cart

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


two dozen plants that look like wide grass

Bee balm:

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


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

Yes, there are millions of Virginia bluebells at Carley State Park.

Virginia bluebells pointed down

What they don’t mention is that there are at least as many false rue anemones:

dozens of false rue anemone


Virginia bluebells and false rue anemone near a fallen tree

This one tree contained an entire spring wildflower ecosystem:

base of a tree surrounded by many types of wildflowers

bluebells, of course, and also bellworts:

one flowering bluebell stem and three bellworts

little-leaf buttercups:

two small yellow flowers

wild ginger:

wild ginger leaves but no flowers

early meadow rue:

small stem of early meadow rue


one open purple violet and one bud

Dutchman’s breeches:

two strings of dutchman's breeches

more false rue anemones:

small patch of false rue anemone

and soon, trilliums:

trillium with a bud hanging down


More photos from Carley State Park