Spring: Inconsistent as Usual

Striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides), Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) and crocus bloom before last week’s snowstorm.

Spring in Minnesota is as fitful as ever — in other words, it’s one of the few things that remains normal during the pandemic. A week ago, Saturday was sunny and 70 degrees. Honey bees explored the squill patch and the first bloodroot blossoms unfurled white and gold. Twelve hours later, a cold front settled over the state. More than five inches of heavy, wet snow buried the garden and coated every bud, twig and trunk. Fox sparrows scratched and dug under the garden hedge sending snow, leaves and dirt flying behind them. A chubby American robin plucked the few remaining crabapples from a small tree. When the air warmed above freezing midweek, a few flowers were wilted and tinged with brown, but those that still had a covering of snow perked right up.

Sticky snow transformed a greening world back to winter black and white.

Traces of snow linger in the shady, northern corners of the yard, but most areas look like spring again — for now. While almost all of Minnesota’s record-breaking April snowstorms have occurred mid-month or earlier, that’s not always been true. Remember that April 29-30 storm in 1984? It dumped 9.7 inches of snow on the Twin Cities to close out the month. It’s all part of a typical Minnesota spring. Here’s a look at what’s growing in the backyard now that the snow has melted.

Bright green moss and its spore capsules are a refreshing sight after the snow.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is one of the earliest spring wildflowers to bloom in Minnesota. Each flower is wrapped in a single leaf before opening.

A honey bee (Apis mellifera) in the Siberian squill is the first one I spotted this year.

A northern magnolia (Magnolia stellata) bud, slightly frostbitten, unfurls on a milder day.

Baby leaves and bud clusters of Canada cherry (Prunus virginiana).

Early Spring

Spring is slow in coming this year; but over the past two weeks, the awakening of life has softened the dingy, post-winter landscape.  Summer bird migrants add their songs to the morning chorus; maples, Canada cherries and other trees bud; chipmunks dart about in the yard; and the early spring bulbs begin to bloom — among them my favorite: the beautiful blue squill.

Siberian Squill (Scilla Siberica)

Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica).

Striped Squill (Puschkinis scilloides).

Striped Squill (Puschkinis scilloides).

Crocus buds (Crocus spp 'ladykiller).

Crocus buds (Crocus species ‘Ladykiller’).

Crocus blossoms (Crocus spp 'ladykiller')

Crocus blossoms (Crocus species ‘Ladykiller’)

Red Maple Flowers (Acer rubra).

Red Maple flowers (Acer rubrum).

Canada cherry (Prunus virginiana 'Canada Red') leaves and flower buds

Canada Cherry (Prunus virginiana ‘Canada Red’) leaves and flower buds.

White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) © T.M. Murray 2014; used with permission.

White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) © T.M. Murray 2014; used with permission.

White-throated sparrows are migrating north and add a melodious, clear whistling to early spring mornings.  Once you’ve heard the song, it’s easy to remember.  Many people liken it to the phrase, “My Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada”.  This sparrow has a bright white throat, a black-and-white striped crown and a bright yellow spot between the eyes and bill.  Listen to and watch a white-throated sparrow whistle its lovely, plaintive song.


Eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) are out of their dens.

Eastern Chipmunks (Tamias striatus) are out of their winter dens.

American robins (Turdus migratorius) are building nests.

American Robins (Turdus migratorius) are building nests.

Newly opened Glory-of-the-Snow (Chinodoxa).

Newly opened Glory-of-the-Snow (Chinodoxa).

A patch of striped squill and Siberian squill in our garden.

A patch of Striped Squill and Siberian Squill in our garden.