Happy May Day! Today’s snowy weather is a tease, but we know bright days are ahead and we are in getting in the spring spirit despite the cold. Colorado wildflowers help to make our state one of the most colorful and sought after destinations in spring and summer in North America. In light of the season, we took a look at three popular spring flowers, where to find them, and where to grow them.
In 1899 the columbine was named the state flower by the Colorado General Assembly and was chosen over the prickly cactus to represent the state flower.
One of the most famous state flowers, the columbine is known for its lavender, light blue, white colors and graceful bell shaped petals. This flower attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, which makes the flower desirable for Colorado gardeners. The flower is mostly known for brightening our purple mountainsides and its name derives from the Latin for columba, meaning dove.
It seems every spring we see tulips blossoming in front yards or showcased as bouquet centerpieces. With a reported 3,000 varieties of tulips they are possibly the worlds most popular flower. Native to Turkey, their name derives from “tulbent” for turban. Once the plant was introduced to Europe it took on the Latin name, tulpia. The Dutch quickly took a liking to the colorful, likable flowers and began to grow them in the now famous Dutch gardens, which now have a whole festival to celebrate them. (And few mimicked festivals now exist here in the States.) In the mid-1600’s prices for tulips soared in the Netherlands and they were considered prized plants to have. During World War II some people were forced to eat the flowers, as it was one of the few options they had, even using the plant to make breads. Tulips are also related to lilies and onions.
These fluffy and colorful cousins to sunflowers and daisies are the darlings of many spring gardens. Dahlias have been growing in Mexico for centuries. Eventually, thanks to Spanish conquistadors, they had made their way to Spain where that were given their name, after botanist Andres Dahl. Dahlias soon became wildly popular across Europe and North America. Even Marie Antoinette had a deep appreciation for dahlias when first introduced to Europe (there’s now a variety named after her).
Aside from looking pretty in gardens and tabletops, flowers can also add elegance and mild flavors to dishes. (They are also a great conversation piece for a crowd.) Add flowers to cakes, salads, side dishes, or sprinkle on meats for a beautiful finish. Most popular and easily found are pansies. Also look for squash blossoms, which have a savory taste and can be stuffed with herbs, soft cheeses and fried. The early spring chive blossoms are lovely garnishes to salads, quiches, and meats. Ask the green thumbs at your local nurseries exactly what flowers are edible and make sure that they have not been sprayed with insecticides.