I usually try to visit my parents in Northwest Ohio as April turns to May, because seeing the large-flowered trillium (trillium grandiflorum, below) and other spring wildflowers in bloom reminds me of my childhood. I won't be able to make my usual trip this spring, as I am working part-time at a local garden center to fund a few house projects... so I am indulging myself in a virtual trip here, courtesy of pictures I took in the spring of 2005.
My brothers and I spent lots of time tromping through the woods behind our house. The woods consisted of just a few acres of trees--saved mostly to serve as a windblock for the farmland behind it--but it held all of the mystique of a vast forest for us as children. We explored rotting logs, searched for frogs in the vernal pools and picked flowers for Mom. Woodland phlox (phlox divaricata) was a sweet-scented favorite. Here is a shot of it surrounded by young ferns:
I cringe a little to realize that some endangered plants like trillium were always part of our "bouquets," but since the forest floor is covered with them now we must not have done too much damage after all.
The trees in the woods are mostly tall and mature, but there are occasionally young, leggy understory shrubs and trees as well. Thanks to the anonymous emailer who helped me to identify the flowers on the understory beauty below as those of the common pawpaw (asiminia trilobia.) I have long wanted to try the supposedly custard-like fruits of this tree, so I wish I had known to go back and search for it later in the season!
I appreciate that certain woodland plants look particularly garden-worthy, like the Jacob's ladder (polemonium reptans) below, surrounded by ferns and toad trillium (trillium sessile--lower left.) Carpets of common blue violets form drifts of groundcover as well.
Other areas look decidedly wild in an appealing way. For example, this melange of ferns, woodland phlox, large-flowered trillium and Jacob's ladder, all sandwiched between clumps of huge Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) leaves:
I feel very fortunate to have access to traditional spring garden flowers now, and would not be without tulips, crocus, brunnera, and the like. But to me the spring wildflowers of the Ohio woodland will always be the harbinger of the season... the flowers that finally mean I can go barefoot for a good long while, and summer is right around the corner. I am looking forward to seeing them again in person, next year.