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There is no one who doesn’t love the hepatica. Before the spring has really decided to come, this little flower pokes its head up and puts all else to shame. Tucked under a covering of dry leaves the blossoms wait for a ray of warm sunshine to bring them out. These embryo flowers are further protected by a fuzzy covering. This reminds one of a similar protective covering which new fern leaves have. In the spring a hepatica plant wastes no time on getting a new suit of leaves. It makes its old ones do until the blossom has had its day. Then the new leaves, started to be sure before this, have a chance. These delayed, are ready to help out next season. You will find hepaticas growing in clusters, sort of family groups. They are likely to be found in rather open places in the woods. The soil is found to be rich and loose. So these should go only in partly shaded places and under good soil conditions. If planted with other woods specimens give them the benefit of a rather exposed position, that they may catch the early spring sunshine. I should cover hepaticas over with a light litter of leaves in the fall. During the last days of February, unless the weather is extreme take this leaf covering away. You’ll find the hepatica blossoms all ready to poke up their heads.
The spring beauty hardly allows the hepatica to get ahead of her. With a white flower which has dainty tracings of pink, a thin, wiry stem, and narrow, grass-like leaves, this spring flower cannot be mistaken. You will find spring beauties growing in great patches in rather open places. Plant a number of the roots and allow the sun good opportunity to get at them. For this plant loves the sun.
The other March flower mentioned is the saxifrage. This belongs in quite a different sort of environment. It is a plant which grows in dry and rocky places. Often one will find it in chinks of rock. There is an old tale to the effect that the saxifrage roots twine about rocks and work their way into them so that the rock itself splits. Anyway, it is a rock garden plant. I have found it in dry, sandy places right on the borders of a big rock. It has white flower clusters borne on hairy stems.
The columbine is another plant that is quite likely to be found in rocky places. Standing below a ledge and looking up, one sees nestled here and there in rocky crevices one plant or more of columbine. The nodding red heads bob on wiry, slender stems. The roots do not strike deeply into the soil; in fact, often the soil hardly covers them. Now, just because the columbine has little soil, it does not signify that it is indifferent to the soil conditions. For it always has lived, and always should live, under good drainage conditions. I wonder if it has struck you, how really hygienic plants are? Plenty of fresh air, proper drainage, and good food are fundamentals with plants.
It is evident from study of these plants how easy it is to find out what plants like. After studying their feelings, then do not make the mistake of huddling them all together under poor drainage conditions.
I always have a feeling of personal affection for the bluets. When they come I always feel that now things are beginning to settle down outdoors. They start with rich, lovely, little delicate blue blossoms. As June gets hotter and hotter their colour fades a bit, until at times they look quite worn and white. Some people call them Quaker ladies, others innocence. Under any name they are charming. They grow in colonies, sometimes in sunny fields, sometimes by the road-side. From this we learn that they are more particular about the open sunlight than about the soil.
If you desire a flower to pick and use for bouquets, then the wild geranium is not your flower. It droops very quickly after picking and almost immediately drops its petals. But the purplish flowers are showy, and the leaves, while rather coarse, are deeply cut. This latter effect gives a certain boldness to the plant that is rather attractive. The plant is found in rather moist, partly shaded portions of the woods. I like this plant in the garden. It adds good colour and permanent colour as long as blooming time lasts, since there is no object in picking it.
There are numbers and numbers of wild flowers I might have suggested. These I have mentioned were not given for the purpose of a flower guide, but with just one end in view your understanding of how to study soil conditions for the work of starting a wild-flower garden.
If you fear results, take but one or two flowers and study just what you select. Having mastered, or better, become acquainted with a few, add more another year to your garden. I think you will love your wild garden best of all before you are through with it. It is a real study, you see.