As I follow the sequence of bloom through the seasons, my focus is “wild” flowers, plants that occur in natural, uncultivated landscapes. There are exceptions of course, and no better example than Glory of the Snow. This hardy garden escapee, naturalized in my lawn, appears in late March and early April, often blooming in snow.
In addition to the visual treat of seeing the first floral color of the season, Glory of the Snow gives me an opportunity to observe the influence of annual variations in climate on the life cycles of plant and animal life (phenology). I selected and dated images from 2016 through yesterday to illustrate this fascinating annual conflict between winter and spring. Spring always wins, but more convincingly in some years than others!
18April2018: A week or more (?) until full bloom
14April2017: full bloom and a welcome event for hungry honey bees
29March2016: approaching full bloom, but experiencing a snowy delay
When landscaping for wildlife (including some insects), I prefer plants that provide multiple benefits through the seasons. A flowering crabapple tree (Malus spp.) with attractive, spring flowers and persistent, colorful fruit that feeds Robins in late winter is an example. As the snow melts in early spring, my attention is drawn to a small perennial flower that also supports this landscaping priority: Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa spp.).
Glory-of-the-Snow is native to alpine habitats in the eastern Mediterranean region and is therefore very hardy, tolerating winter temperatures down to minus 20 degrees (F) or colder, depending on the variety. In this area it is often seen blooming in a snow-covered perennial bed or lawn (they naturalize) in March or April.
The temperature was 18 degrees (F) when this photo was taken (the slender green structures framing the flower are the typical leaves of this variety).
Aside from the obvious aesthetic appeal of an early spring bloom and carpet of blue on white, Glory-of-the-Snow also performs a valuable ecological role in the landscape. It provides a food source for honeybees, flies and other insects. Take a walk and tally up all of the flowers in bloom that might be visited by a honey bee for nectar. Here, you’ll find landscape crocuses (Crocus spp.), some willows (Salix spp.; cultivated and natural) — but not much else.
Bees returned to feed soon after the deep freeze, when afternoon temperatures reached 45 – 50 degrees (F).