en English
en Englishes Spanishpt Portuguesear Arabicht Haitian Creolezh-TW Chinese (Traditional)


Your Local Online News Source for Over 3 Decades

Saugus Gardens in the Spring

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Here’s what’s blooming in town this week to make your walks more enjoyable


By Laura Eisener


Last week’s storm gave us an “After Easter Winter Wonderland” for a few days, but happily very little shoveling was needed. The snow was not very deep but it was delightful to see daffodils, hyacinths, Siberian squill and other flowers popping up through the snow.

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 13, is the birthday of Thomas Jefferson. He often wrote in his diary about the plants in his garden, especially unusual varieties of vegetables and fruits that were not commonly part of European diets at the time. In spring 1824 he wrote an article in The American Farmer, an agricultural journal published in Baltimore – an article about when he sowed and harvested his favorite seeds, harvested fruits and vegetables and performed other garden tasks. More recently, April 13 has been known as Plant Appreciation Day, when people around the world celebrate the many ways plants benefit people and the environment.

Patriots’ Day, commemorating the April 19 Battles of Lexington and Concord, is celebrated on the third Monday of April in Maine and Massachusetts, which this year falls on the 15th. During most patriotic holidays, such as Memorial Day and Fourth of July, it is easy to find flowers in the garden that are white or red, but true blue is difficult, so purple flowers are often used instead. In April, it is easy enough to find true blue flowers, such as Siberian squill (Scilla sibirica), in bloom as well as white varieties of Siberian squill and the blue and white striped squill (Puschkinia libanotica), whose small flowers are star shaped and sprinkled around gardens in early spring. Like other early spring bulbs, these are planted in their dormant state in fall, and the flowers and leaves emerge a month or so after the soil thaws, around the same time as daffodils. They are very adaptable as far as planting location goes because they prefer part shade but can grow in sunny locations as well. They are most effective in large groups, since the flowers are small and the stems just a few inches tall. Like daffodils, they often survive for decades and may multiply over time.

American hazelnut (Corylus americana) has noticeable catkins now along edges of woods and roadsides, including a few growing on the Northern Strand Community Trail. These catkins are not fuzzy like those of pussy willow, but are longer, with pale tan male catkins reaching up to 3 1/2″ long. Female flowers, which grow on the same plant, are much less conspicuous and can be confused with buds. When in bloom the female flowers will have tiny red styles protruding a fraction of an inch. Since they bloom so early in the season, sometimes they are damaged by cold before they are able to be pollinated, so the small edible nuts may not develop unless the weather is mild through the early spring. The nuts ripen in late summer and early fall and are similar to the European hazelnut or common filbert (Corylus avellana). Our native nuts are smaller and often eaten by wildlife before people notice they are there. Many kinds of wildlife – deer, turkeys, grouse, foxes and, of course, squirrels – enjoy these nuts when they can find them. The larger European hazelnuts are popular as whole nuts or ground and very popular combined with chocolate. The chocolate hazelnut spread Nutella is made with ground hazelnuts and chocolate, and the candymaker Ferrero-Rocher makes a very popular version of chocolate covered hazelnuts wrapped in gold foil.

Willow trees can be recognized from quite a distance away now as their twigs have developed a bright yellow color, and new leaves and catkins are emerging. The most common weeping willow varieties found here are white weeping willow (Salix alba ‘Tristis’), which are hardier than the very similar looking Babylon weeping willow (Salix babylonica). Although related to pussy willows, the tree willows have non-fuzzy catkins, similar to those of the hazelnuts although not as long. Wind pollinated plants like hazelnuts and willows are often not showy. The floppy forms of some wind-pollinated plants can flap on a windy day, helping to disperse pollen more effectively. The lack of leaves at this time of year is also of benefit to these plants, since a dense crown of foliage could stop the pollen from being spread to other trees.


  Editor’s Note: Laura Eisener is a landscape design consultant who helps homeowners with landscape design, plant selection and placement of trees and shrubs, as well as perennials. She is a member of the Saugus Garden Club and offered to write a series of articles about “what’s blooming in town” shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was inspired after seeing so many people taking up walking.

Contact Advocate Newspapers