If it were all about us, then spring flowers, despite the fact that they are often weak in color, low to the ground, spidery in appearance, or even just oddly formed catkins, would simply represent the coming of a new season. That, indeed, the planet had finally righted its wobble, temporarily at least, and tilted us toward the sun a little more so that our backs hunch a bit less, our muscles relax some, and smiles come a little easier to our faces.
But it’s really not just about us. We are part of the equation, no doubt, but the fact is that spring flowers serve an important function in the ecosystem and in the garden. First and foremost, spring flowers are the reproductive systems of the plants that produce them. Without them, these plants don’t make seeds. Without seeds, they eventually go away.
Just as importantly, spring flowers kick start the season of insects! This sounds worrisome, but keep in mind there are two kinds of insects—those that feed on plants and animals (we’ll call them “bad guys”), and those that feed on the “bad guys” (we’ll call these “good guys”).That’s slightly over-simplified, but the gist of that argument is dead on. Spring flowers, and flowers in general, favor the “good guys.” Insects that prey on other insects often require pollen or nectar in one or more of their life stages. The more flowers in your garden, and especially if it is in bloom consistently from very early to very late in the season, the fewer problems you will have with insects damaging your plants. And, of course, a diversity of plants and insects in your garden supports other wildlife too, especially birds.
So plant more flowers. You’ll not only enjoy the beauty, but you’ll also make your garden a little easier to manage and the ecosystem around you a bit richer.
Scott Beuerlein and Brian Jorg