The Best Springtime Ever

Wild blackberries are abundant this year, and I ate these two plump sweet ripe berries just after taking this photo!
This is one of several elderberries in my edible front yard, full of flower clusters
Lemon scented Yellow Trillium grow by the hundreds in my woods
Wild crested Iris has magnificent flowers
As we approach the official start of summer and the wild blackberries begin to ripen, I declare Spring '16 as one of the best ever for gardening here in East Tennessee. The mild winter, with regular rainfall, seemed to provide ideal conditions for all the spring flowering plants, shrubs and trees to produce maximum flowers. In addition, our spring weather has been comfortable, not as hot as usual, and fairly regular with rain.

All those spring flowers mean loads of berries this year. I harvested a bumper crop of luscious sweet strawberries. Just as they were winding down, the blueberries began to turn dark blue. Last December I had worried about my blueberries, since they began to flower due to the unseasonable warmth. I was afraid I'd lose this year's crop, but my concerns proved to be unfounded. Clumps of blueberries have grown like bunches of grapes, and I am picking them every day now. My thornless hybrid blackberries are also ripening with the biggest crop ever, and the elderberry bushes are healthy and covered with huge white flower clusters which will ripen to dark blue berries later in the summer.

Cooler spring weather with ample moisture also made it possible to do lots of transplanting. For the last few years I have been creating a Wildflower Specimen Garden, on one of our woodland trails less than 100 feet from the house. I have become passionate about spring wildflowers, since the woods surrounding our house are amazingly lush and varied. I decided to have a "cultivated" wildflower garden near my house, to showcase these beauties to visitors who are not up for bushwhacking down a slope far from the house and/or are not familiar with the beauty Mother Nature displays in springtime. One year some purple flowering Lunaria (aka Money Plant or Silver Dollars, due to the papery circular seedpods it produces after flowering) seeded itself on the edge of one of our trails. I walk by this spot daily on my morning walk with the dogs, and I thought it would be wonderful to see what was flowering elsewhere without traipsing through the woods. This gave me the idea to move some of my most abundant spring wildflowers from other places in my woods, so during the last few years I have carefully transplanted Bloodroot, Myrtle, Yellow Trillium, Rue Anemone, Blue Phlox, Jack In The Pulpit, Foam Flower, Solomon's Seal, Blue-Eyed Grass, Little Brown Jugs, Doll's Eyes, Yellow Fairybells, many varieties of Violets, and one successfully transplanted Pink Lady's Slipper.

I took this photo in April in a lush hollow we call Dee Spring - some of the wildflowers growing in one little section are labelled
The soil were I've moved them is rich humus, and the area is under a canopy of hardwood trees. Several friends have shared their wildflowers with me, adding Crested Iris, Bird's Foot Violets, Sweet Woodruff, maroon Toadshade Trillium and Nodding Cateby's Trillium to my specimen garden. I have purchased many others from wildflower nurseries which Rick wonderfully scouted-out for my May birthday mystery dates, adding Black Cohosh, Grandiflora Trillium, Prairie Trillium, Blue Cohosh, Wild Ginger, Yellow Root, Green Dragon, and Bleeding Hearts. One of the first springs I walked the trails of this land, I spotted magnificent Showy Orchis, but I've never been able to find it again. So this year I broke down and bought some roots on eBay. They initially showed growth, but soon died back, so I am not sure I'll see them again.

Foam flowers now grow in my specimen garden
This spring I also added many more discoveries from my own woods, including Canadian Violets, Hearts-A-Bustin', Mayapple, Wild Geraniums, White Milkweed, Golden Groundsel, Wild Oats, Solomon's Plume, Fire Pinks, Pink Wood Sorrel, Mountain Laurel, and more wild Violets. All of these grow naturally in the dappled sunlight of the spring forest, so they have done wonderfully along my trail. I've counted over 50 wildflower specimen on display now, all with labels. Many sun-loving spring wildflowers, not suitable for the conditions in my Specimen Garden, are in my cultivated gardens just outside the house, including Columbine, Showy Evening Primrose, St. John's Wort, Yucca, Salsify, Coneflower, Garden Phlox, Liatris, Lily of the Valley, Wild Poppies, Larkspur, Oxeye Daisies, Brown Eyed Susans, Daylilies, Butterfly Weed, False Indigo, Foxglove, Irises and probably those I've forgotten! On the outskirts of my planted gardens grow spring flowering Venus's Looking Glass, Japanese Honeysuckle and Multiflora Roses which can be invasive, Clovers, Chickweed, Thistle,
This gorgeous Lady's Slipper was especially pink this year!
Cranesbill, Horsetail, Fleabane, Wild Lettuce, Poke, Common Dandelion, Queen Anne's Lace, and many others. And there are many others in my woods which I haven't transplanted, like Squaw Root which grows as a parasite from roots of trees like oak, and a new discovery I've identified as Scorpion Grass. Some others grow in sunny spring locations, so my woodland setting with partial shade is not suitable. I have many summer and autumn wildflowers too, but the wonder of discovering gorgeous flowers after the dullness of winter is probably what makes those my favorites. As you can tell, I've been busy documenting my wildflowers with photos, and I've amassed quite a large reference file. Be sure to ask me for a tour of my wildflower specimen garden if you visit me in the springtime. I love flowers!

Since this is a Good Food blog, I should add that many wildflowers are edible. Of course, you have to make positive ID's before picking any plants to eat, pick only what is abundant and vibrant. It's best that what you pick isn't subject to chemical sprays and roadside auto exhaust. You also need to harvest sustainable, so you don't kill the plant. Some of the wildflowers growing on my property which I harvest as edibles are Chickweed (a fabulous winter green), Jerusalem Artichoke tubers, Daylily shoots/buds/flowers, Violets, Trillium young leaves, Dandelion flowers/leaves/roots, Lamb's Quarters, Muscadine leaves, Watercress, Wild Onions, and oodles of Wild Blackberries will be eaten this year! Let me know what wild edibles you've had in your diet.