Did you feel it? Right before the nor’easter hit us with a fresh blast of cold, there was a hint of spring (the 30s, which is Minnesota spring, right?)
If you’re like us, your mind is already on all that beautiful spring color. We are getting our garden plans in order so that we can get things moving once fair weather graces us again. We’ve got a list of five flowers you must plant this year for extraordinary color plus butterfly friendliness (and even one that’s edible for humans). Let’s refresh your garden.
Rudbeckia Nitida (Goldquelle)
Commonly known as “Gold Drops,” this species of coneflower is a showy, late summer perennial native to New England. It doesn’t actually have a cone, making “coneflower” a bit misleading.
It’s great for color at the back of the garden space because it grows up to five feet tall with support. The blooms are double-petaled and bright yellow. It tolerates most soils, does best in full sun, but can handle some shade in the afternoon if necessary.
It attracts both hummingbirds and butterflies. It won’t spread too much from your original planting, but it will form mounds over time.
Hollyhocks (Queeny Purple)
Hollyhocks are a cottage garden staple. These biennial flowers might take some patience but sowing them in the garden now ensures you’ll have show-stopping color every year after.
Hollyhocks are easy to start from seed. They spend the first year growing and storing nutrients for second year blooms. After the second year, they burst into color, produce seeds, and die back, starting the process all over.
Hollyhocks traditionally grow very tall and need staking, but we’re fond of “Queeny Purple,” a dwarf variety that reaches about two feet tall and doesn’t need much, if any, staking. Blooms are bright purple and magenta with fringed petals. They’re also edible.
Peonies (Hephestos or Lois’ Choice)
There’s little more dramatic than peonies. They’re hardy to our area and produce large blooms that attract both hummingbirds and butterflies. They are perennials but may need a few years to establish fully.
It’s best to plant bare-root peonies in the fall, but you can transplant potted peonies in spring. We love “Hephestos,” a dark red variety and the 2017 American Peony Society Best in Show winner. Another gorgeous option is the 2017 APS Gold Medal winner, Lois’ Choice, which is a peach, pink, and yellow bloom.
Peonies do attract ants, but ants are a vital part of the bud opening. Be careful not to disturb this balance.
Blanketflower (Baby Cole)
Gaillardia x grandiflora, otherwise known as Blanketflower, is a super hardy perennial that produces blooms from late spring into fall. They’re a low growing plant, six to eight inches, with hairy, green foliage in early spring. They produce daisy-like flowers that attract butterflies.
The blooms are bright yellow and red, which fade into each other for eye-catching color. They’re suitable for the front of the bed because of their height, bloom color, and attractive foliage.
Balloon Flowers (Astra Pink)
Platycodon grandiflorus, or Balloon flowers, are hardy perennials that increase blooms the longer they grow in the garden. These are old-fashioned, cottage garden flowers that produce bright color like an annual.
Balloon flowers are fun for children to grow. Scatter seeds on top of the soil in spring and keep moist. Later, blooms appear and swell up, resembling little balloons on the ends of the stems. One day, they burst open to reveal flowers.
We like Astra Pink, a sweet pastel variety with darker, raspberry veins. Children aren’t the only ones who adore these flowers. They’re also a butterfly favorite.
Color and Wildlife
It’s never too early to start planning out the newest introductions to your garden!