Garden Photo of the Day

Earliest Blooms at Ned Wolf Park

Hellebores and more start the season off with a bang

clumps of pink and white hellebore flowers

Eric Sternfels is part of a team of volunteers that maintains a stunning garden in Ned Wolf Park in Philadelphia. This park is small—just 50 feet by 150 feet—but the team of volunteer caretakers has turned it into a magical space. Eric has shared the garden with us before (Revisiting Ned Wolf Park and Through the Seasons at Ned Wolf Park), and it is always a pleasure to get to visit it again and see what is blooming. Recently, Eric noticed that the hellebores were putting on a particularly stunning display, and he sent in some photos of them and other early-spring bloomers in the garden.

clumps of pink and white hellebore flowersThese hellebores (Helleborus hybrids, Zones 4–9) are just loaded with blooms. Consistently among the first perennials to bloom in the spring, hellebores are also easy to grow and deer resistant, so they fit into nearly every garden.

close up of white helleboresThe colorful parts that look like petals on a hellebore are actually sepals, so they don’t drop off as the flower matures, instead staying in place and looking beautiful for a very long time, often shifting to green as they mature.

close up of hellebore Pink Frost‘Pink Frost’ hellebore can flower so heavily it is nearly a solid mass of flowers.

close up of Mahonia bealei shrub about to bloomMahonia bealei (Zones 7–9) is an early-blooming evergreen shrub with big spires of fragrant yellow flowers.

close up of yellow crocus budsCrocus flavus (Zones 3–9) blooms close up on cloudy days, just waiting for some sunshine to coax them fully open.

close up of tree peony about to bloomA tree peony (Paeonia ‘Purple Butterly in the Wind’, Zones 4–8) is just beginning to push into growth. The enormous flowers are a stunning showpiece in the garden later in the season.

low-growing purple flowers behind a garden benchBlack sea toothwort (Cardamine quinquefolia, Zones 6–8) is an ephemeral perennial that isn’t on the radar of most gardeners, but it should be. It pops up early with this wonderful carpet of flowers and then goes dormant for the summer.

clumps of Hoop petticoat daffodils growing amongst fallen leavesHoop petticoat daffodils (Narcissus hybrids, Zones 4–9) are a group of species and hybrids with enormous trumpets and tiny petals. The plants are miniature, and one of their best features is their delicate, grasslike foliage that is unobtrusive as it fades after flowering.

close up of helleboresAnd here’s one final view of the hellebores showing off! This park sure is starting the gardening year off right.


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View Comments


  1. nwphilagardener 03/20/2024

    The specific Hoop Petticoat daffodil shown is Narcissus romieuxii 'Julia Jane' [which is available from several mail order bulb companies]

  2. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 03/20/2024

    Exciting sights to see in any garden. Thanks for the revisit.

  3. Oxdriftgardener 03/20/2024

    Very fresh. My first introduction to mahonia. Thanks for sharing

    1. nwphilagardener 03/20/2024

      Mahonia blooms, when visited by the earliest pollinators, will create stunning clusters of grape-shaped berries. It's spiny leaves are an unusual large scale texture, so it offers a bit of exotic looks yearround.

  4. User avater
    simplesue 03/20/2024

    Really pretty, so many unusual first blooms!

  5. btucker9675 03/20/2024

    What a fabulous little garden! I'm going to check into the black sea toothwort - so very pretty!

    1. nwphilagardener 03/20/2024

      Because it goes dormant so early it is hard to find in the trade, even mail order. But it really spreads, uncontrollably perhaps but is perfect where hostas will come later in May

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