What’s Blooming: May 2022

Flowering Dogwood

little girl with hat smelling purple lilac flowers

Who doesn’t love the smell of lilacs?

Spring would not be spring  if lilacs (Syringa) did not  greet us with a profusion of vibrant  purples and their distinctive and aromatic odors. With too many cultivars to list, almost any one of them would be a wonderful addition to a home landscape. The shrub can be trimmed after flowering to help keep it in check as its roots will sprout out new growth increasing the footprint of the plant.  These shoots can be cut off from the main bush to provide a clone that can be shared with others.

close up of annual bedstraw flowers with leaves behind them

Considered a  weed by some and unnoticeable by many, is the annual bedstraw (Galium aparine).  The tiny white flowers at the top, and whorled leaves spaced along the square stem, provide a contrast usually to the plants around it. It is not the flora that inspired the creation of velcro, but possesses the  same hook-like features on its stems and leaves that allows it to grasp and cling onto most fabrics.  As the name implies it has been used by many to provide some loft and cushion to a makeshift mattress.

sprig of annual bedstraw flowers stuck to a tshirt

Snip off a portion of a stem and throw it onto a t-shirt worn by a child. The kid may shriek but then be delighted to see it stick. In turn, they will probably do the same.

upward shot of dogwood branches against the backdrop of the sky

A view from below of the opposite branching characteristic of (almost all) dogwoods


An acronym used by some in the eastern US to approach tree identification. Approximately 80% of the deciduous trees in the east have opposite branches.  Those species are in the maple, ash, dogwood and buckeye tree families (a noticeable exception is the native Alternate Leaved dogwood).  So when contemplating what kind of non-evergreen tree it may be, checkout its branching pattern first.

The Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and Rose dogwood (Cornus kousa) pictured below respectively,  grace many homeowners yards.  Typically small in height with an open spread, the cross shaped flowers will delight for several days

Full-length picture of a dogwood tree with white flowers in front of a house
full-length photo of a dogwood tree with pink flowers
pale purple chive flowers shown with the chive plants

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)are known for graciously providing a zest of color and taste to many a dish. They can also spice up a garden bed with their delightful flowers assuming one does not trim the plants extensively just for their epicurean delight. The early season perennial will expand its offering thus it may best be grown as a container plant on the patio.


bed of wild stonecrop plants with white flowers

Wild stonecrop (Sedum ternatum) is a native succulent that does not tolerate scorching sunshine.. Susceptible to even a light trampling, broken pieces may lead to formation of a new plant.  Left alone the stonecrop will blanket an area given the right conditions. Good as a border and in rock gardens.

delicate white star of bethlahem flowers growing on a lawn

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) A non-native that has been naturalized in the US, the slender gass like stalks lead down to tiny bulbs just below the soil surface. An early season perennial will pop-up in beds as well as lawns.


mock strawberry plant with yellow flower against a rock wall

Mock strawberry (Duchesnea indica) as the name applies, is not native to the American continent but to southern Asia and India in particular.  Also known as false strawberry or backyard strawberry, it will produce a small red fruit that is edible but lacks any significant flavor. The leaves are smaller than our farmed strawberries and may get mixed in if one does not actively control the spread.

close up of gray's sedge plants with small green flowers

Gray’s sedge (Carex grayi) is a clump forming plant that may grow to about three feet tall. The three dimensional star shaped flower heads are very distinct and give the plant its alternate name the Mace sedge due to the flower head resembling the weapon of  medial war time. Interestingly I discovered this in our rain garden and neither my wife or I remember planting it. We are delighted for its appearance due to its unique features and it is a plant my wife has wanted for some time.

close up of palm sedge plants with flower stalks

Palm sedge (Carex muskingumensi) is found most often in the wild in low woods or swampy areas.  As such, it is an excellent candidate for a rain garden (where ours is planted). Also growing up to three feet tall, this dark green plant will spread by rhizomes.

full length photo of a crabapple tree with white flowers against a house

Crabapple trees (Malus) are members of the rose family or Rosaceae. If you have ever compared a rose hip to a crabapple, the similarities are obvious. Close examination of the branches will reveal the thorn-like vestiges it shares with its Valentines Day cousin’s sharpened points. The rose family contains nearly 5,000 known species in 91 genera and includes many of the fruiting plants we are familiar with and enjoy, such as almonds, apricots, plums, cherries and apples, to name just a few.  In addition to coloring our springtime landscapes, Crabapple can feed a multitude of critters.

Photos by the author unless otherwise noted

About the author – Steve Oakes is a retired Main library associate and a former National Park Ranger at Denali, Carlsbad and Cuyahoga Valley National Parks.  Oakes and his wife enjoy hiking, backpacking, bicycle touring, canoeing and other outdoor adventures including gardening and native plant landscaping.

For more information on planting native wildflowers in your landscape and the benefits thereof, visit the FL Schlagle branch of your own Kansas City Kansas, Public Library at Wyandottte County Lake Park, 4501 West Dr., Kansas City, KS 66109.  There, you too, can see what’s in bloom.  And checkout the butterfly garden as well.

The following website provides tips on the growing trend of native landscaping  www.grownative.org.

© Steve Oakes