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Spring 2014 04 24 41654 Joshua Bright 1

A Horticultural Interpreter's Seasonal Favorites: Spring

April 1, 2020

It’s hard to pick a favorite plant. Does an avid reader have only one favorite book, an oenophile just one favorite wine? And our preferences depend on many things: weather, mood or even the way light happens to fall upon a flower at a particular time of day. Here is the first of four posts about a few of my favorites in each season, starting, of course, with spring.

Spring is especially difficult to pick favorites, mainly because there are so many eagerly awaited plants that are emerging and blooming in rapid succession but, narrowing the options down to just a few for this season, I would list species tulips, Bulley’s candelabra primrose, and the flowering cherry ‘Hally Jolivete’.

The term species tulips applies to the wild tulips (species of Tulipa) that are the forebears of the larger cultivated tulips. Some cultivated varieties are included in this group because they are selections of these species. Their small stature and naturalistic appearance makes them very suited for use in less formal garden areas, such as the Wild Garden at Wave Hill. Some of my favorites are the various forms of Tulipa humilis. Most bloom in shades of pink or violet but T. humilis ‘Alba Coerulea Oculata’ is white with an inky, purple-black center.

Primroses thrive in cool, shady areas, and they come from various parts of the world. One that I’m particularly fond of in the Shade Border is Bulley’s candelabra primrose (Primula bulleyana). It comes from Yunnan, China and is named for Arthur Kilpin Bulley. Its flower stalks grow up to two feet high and carry whorled tiers of orange flowers.

Flowering cherries (Prunus spp.) are the show stealers of spring. Often large trees and covered in pink, or white, puffy blossoms, they can be very impressive, but not exactly understated. One though, Prunus ‘Hally Jolivette’, is a tree that grows into a compact mound of less than 15’ high and wide, and its blooms, although abundant, are very refined, with white petals and tasteful, dark red centers.

Charles Day was, until April 1, 2020, Wave Hill's Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.