The past year has had its fair share of offenses against our sanity and our natural habitat. We’re looking at you, COVID-19, and you, 2021 snowpocalypse. But it’s officially spring (technically not till March 20, but you tell that to the flowers), so time to dust off your cold shoulder tops (for easy vaccine access) and sunnies; the weather’s taking a turn for the better and Portland’s about to be in bloom.
But whether you're a blossom weekend warrior or a master gardener yourself, here's what Portland botanical experts are telling us to be on the lookout for this spring.
Blooming right now, the daffodil (Narcissus) conjures beauty with its mythic power. Distinguished by its trumpet shape and “happy” yellow hue, the daffodil is a spring classic, says OSU extension community horticulturist Weston Miller. Though the Junction City Daffodil Festival won’t take place this year, you can still peep this flower by driving past the miles of planted daffodil fields on Ferguson Road.
A bit more demure, snowdrops bring a more delicate blossom to your garden. With a short stem and small petaled bells, you may miss the snowdrops during your garden perusal—they often blossom in groups close to the ground. These dainty florets are popping up now—don’t miss them!
The hyacinth, Miller says, stands out pretty nicely with its vibrant purple coloring. An added factor of fragrance, Portland Nursery’s flower colorist Bebhinn Smuda says, makes hyacinth a crowning jewel in the spring. These bright florals will revive year after year, but only in the spring. A budding buddy to daffodils, hyacinths are just starting to sprout.
Hellebores are a wide-ranging variety of flower and are “blooming now for sure,” Miller says. With a robust bulb, the buttercup-cousin is a “happy early season bloomer,” sometimes peeping through even when there’s still snow on the ground. They aren’t very fragrant, but with their curious mix of colorful arrangements, the hellebore makes the list.
In the shrub family, Oregon grape, is more or less unique to our fine state, Miller says. With pale yellow petals and leaves that change from blue-green to maroon during colder months, it’s a beautiful sight and good for attracting hummingbirds. You’ll have to hold off a little longer before spying this one though, Smuda and Miller say it won’t be on full display until April or May.
One of the earliest bloomers and also of the shrub variety, daphne, “almost knocks your socks off” with its sweet aroma, says Miller. The tiny pink clusters that release their perfume are a nice touch, too, making this botanical find the season’s incomparable.
If trees are more your thing, then Sam Erman from Portland’s Friends of Trees says cornelian cherry dogwood trees should be on your radar. With bright fruit that blossoms yellow to red, cornelian cherry dogwood is showy, attractive to our winged friends, and a bountiful source for concoctions of the sweet and syrupy variety. Chances are, if you look out your window, you’ll spy cornelian cherry lining your street.
Should nothing else catch your eye, at least note the big blooming late-spring mainstay, rhododendron. Perhaps overlooked because of its populous nature, we urge you to give rhododendron a little credit—its spicy and sweet clove-like scent and vivid petals will add pep to your daily walk around the neighborhood. If you’re a real rhododendron fanatic, wander through Portland’s Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (also: Mt Tabor, Forest Park, and Elk Rock Garden).