Garden Photo of the Day

Spring Comes Slow in the Northland

Enjoying the first flowers in Zone 3

I’m Mary Spaulding, and I have been gardening on our Zone 3 rural property for the last 32 years. As a young gardener I was privileged to have several knowledgeable mentors. I became a Master Gardener in my quest for knowledge and was able to visit gardens abroad as sources of inspiration. Zone 3 puts some serious limits on a gardener’s plant palette, and our shortened growing season causes a “traffic jam” of things that must be done once we can get outdoors. Our lows for May 7 were 22°F! Nonetheless, some of these lovelies venture forth to brighten and encourage us!

Grape hyacinthGrape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum, Zones 3–8) among emerging mertensia (Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica, Zones 3–8).

Daffodils, flowers on the mertensia, and lilacs just starting to put out leaves.

Narcissus ‘Thalia’Narcissus ‘Thalia’ (Zones 3–8)

peony budsNewly emerging peonies still in tight bud.

peony foliageBeautiful foliage of vigorous peonies coming into growth.

small-cup daffodilA hybrid small-cup daffodil.

Tulipa tardaSpecies tulip, Tulipa tarda (Zone 3–8). (Editor’s note: This species of tulip is one of the best to not just come back every year but spread and multiply.)

‘Pipit’ daffodilAn unknown daffodil. (Editor’s note: Looks like it might be the variety ‘Pipit’.)

Fern fiddleFern fiddle heads just beginning to unfurl.

ElderberryEmerging sambucus (Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa, Zones 3–7) leaves.


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View Comments


  1. PattyLouise 05/19/2020

    Your garden is lovely! I can’t imagine it being that cold in May although we had a frost here in Virginia 2 weeks ago. Your flowers look very happy! I will check out the tulipa tarda. Love those!

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 05/19/2020

    Your photos of the tightly furled fiddleheads and the emerging colorful stems of peonies show that plants have a special beauty when they are in the full of promise stage. 'Thalia' is a variety of daffodil that is very appealing...has a sweet fragrance and such a delicate flower shape.

  3. janeeliz 05/19/2020

    I love your garden and your photos are truly wonderful. It is so exciting to see our plants emerging in the spring and you captured many of those beautiful moments!

  4. cheryl_c 05/19/2020

    The newly emerging peonies are especially beautiful. Your buds must be in a big hurry as well, as the buds on my zone 6 peonies are just opening this past week, but the plants have been full and green for many weeks. We're having the second coldest May on record, with average high temperatures only reaching what we would normally have the third week of March! Kudos to you for doing so much with a limited palette!

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 05/19/2020

    All so very, very lovely.

  6. user-5117752 05/19/2020

    In spite of your short season, you certainly have done something right! What a lovely garden to spend time in. I, too, particularly love your photos of the emerging plants, the lush peonies, the charm of the unfolding ferns, the color and leaves of the Sambucus. Would love to see what summer brings you. No pressure.

  7. User avater
    simplesue 05/19/2020

    First of all I can not even imagine living in zone 3- wow, what a challenge for a gardener!
    But you seem to be doing just fine in zone 3 and have tons of flowers!
    Out of all your pretty photos I was so amazed with the photo of your Peony that I saved it.
    It's the healthiest most amazing looking Peony I've ever seen, and the way it appears to have pushed through heavy soil is even more of an amazing photo.
    It looks like sculpture/art- what is it's name? or at least color? How old is it?
    Sure would love to see a follow up photo of it in bloom!

  8. btucker9675 05/19/2020

    Love, love, love... When living in northern NJ, walking around my garden in spring looking for every new thing coming up was such joy - especially the peonies! I wish you a very happy gardening season.

  9. Patchworkgardener 05/19/2020

    Beautiful flowers. I love the emerging peonies and ferns. Especially like the wide view of your yard and the way you’ve laid out your flower beds. Happy gardening!

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