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Welcome to It’s Poppin’!

March 8, 2023


Spring is a time of constant change at the Cleveland Botanical Garden and the Holden Arboretum, and It’s Poppin’ is your weekly report throughout spring to help you plan your adventure at each campus.  Should you go to the garden, arboretum, or both?  It’s Poppin’ will be your guide.

March 8th- Welcome Early Bloomers!

Last year at this time, we were measuring snow in feet as it drifted around each campus.  But a winter with very little snow, coupled with warm temperatures in February has many of our earliest spring plants up and ready to be viewed.  In fact, some may be blooming as much as 30 days early this year.  Fortunately, these blooms are well adapted to quick changes in temperature, so the swings we’ve experienced haven’t put a damper on the show.

Holden Arboretum

Surprise!  We had a late season snow at the Arboretum Tuesday, but that didn’t damage any of the spring blooms. Park at the Corning Visitor Center, and before you cross the road, take note of the island of winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) showing off their bright yellow flowers carpeting the ground.  One of our earliest spring bloomers is slightly past peak, but still beautiful.  In the beds in front of the Corning Visitor Center, you’ll encounter a stunning display of purple reticulated irises (Iris reticulata) mixed in with snowdrops (Galanthus) and several cultivars of Lenten rose (Heleborus) with dark purple and pale yellow flowers.  I saw a visitor this afternoon standing on the sidewalk enjoying this early and unexpected floral bounty.

In the display garden, find much more Lenten rose and another dwarf iris cultivar that has haunting white petals with fine blue lines, giving it a stunning gray coloration that is unique.  Also, look for the dense patch of snowdrops underneath the sugar maple tree next to the lily pond.

dwarf iris

In the Rhododendron Discovery Garden, look out for the winter heaths (Erica carnea) that topple over the stone of the raised bed areas.  We have two cultivars that are just starting to bloom – one with pink flowers, one with white.  This low growing plant is one that isn’t often seen in the home landscape, and I highly recommend visiting it over the next week or two as it reaches peak.  You’ll also see the yellow buds just about to open on Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), one of the dogwoods.

Finally, perhaps my favorite and must-see bloom at the Arboretum this week is one of the hardy Cyclamens called eastern sowbread (Cyclamen coum).  Spot this tiny, ground hugging magenta flower underneath a Stewartia on top of Spruce Knoll, the former home of Stickworks.  While you’re walking back to the visitor center, spot the spathes of native skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) rising from the seeps along the stream in the Wildflower Garden.

eastern sowbread

Cleveland Botanical Garden

While we typically think of February as a time to take in the floral wonder that is Orchids Forever, the blooms were poppin’ early outside at University Circle. The display started this year in mid-February. 

The garden tends to be about two weeks ahead of the Arboretum for many plants.  On February 23, winter aconites, early crocus and snow drops were at peak bloom.  While they are now past peak, you should be able to still spot them scattered throughout the outdoor garden areas.  Also in February, many of the daffodils had broken ground and had formed buds.  The cold temperatures tempered the bloom, but they should be opening very soon.

Finally, spot spring heath in the Western Reserve Herb Society’s fragrance garden and in the gateway garden outside the main entrance, look for a hybrid cultivar of witchazel (Hamaemlis)showing its early spring, yellow strap-shaped petals with rich burgundy centers.

And please be sure to visit our glasshouses, as this upcoming weekend is the last for this year’s Orchids Forever. Kudos to the amazing horticulturists and exhibit staff for creating a truly magical show.

It’s Poppin’ is Holden Forests and Garden’s weekly report of what’s in bloom at the Holden Arboretum and Cleveland Botanical Garden. Use it to plan your weekly adventure to our campuses – be it a visit to the city, country, or both.  Be sure to follow HF&G on Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook for more “it’s poppin” reports throughout the week.

Thomas Arbour

Thomas Arbour

Curator of Living Collections

I grew up in northeast Ohio, graduating from Stow High School. I attended Hiram College, where I learned to love plants through the mentoring of Dr. Matt Hils. After Hiram, I obtained a Master of Environmental Science at Miami University, completing an internship with The ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves in Columbus to help convert the Ohio Natural Heritage Database from paper maps to a GIS-based system. Over 20+ years, I worked with ODNR in central office in Columbus as a rare plant botanist, wildlife research technician, nature preserves administrator, and finally, the state trails administrator. In these positions, I had the opportunity to document many of Ohio's rarest plants and plant communities.

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