Early Spring Colors in the Yard: Blue, Lavender, Purple, Yellow

by DerdriuMarriner

Spring announces its arrival with a palette of colors for early spring flowers. Early spring colors include blue, lavender, purple, and yellow.

Early spring colors glisten primarily in shades of blue, lavender, purple, and yellow in my yard.
• Nature is casting off its wintry cloak.
• Spring's harbingers are answering the yearly call to unfurl colors.

The cast of floral characters is already on the stage of my yard and anxiously awaits introduction:
• common hyacinths,
• grape hyacinths,
• jonquils,
• Virginia bluebells, and
• wild violets.

blue lavender hyacinth

Hyacinthus orientalis
Hyacinthus orientalis

Hyacinths: Dutch or common hyacinth


Dutch or common hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis) presents fragrant flowers on a single spike. The flowers may be colored:

  • blue,
  • orange,
  • pink,
  • red,
  • violet,
  • white, or 
  • yellow.

With its wide distribution and its lengthy history of cultivation, this cherished ornamental plant is represented by over 2,000 cultivars.


"Zephyrus and Hyacinthus": death of Hyacinthos, from whose blood Apollo created the hyacinth flower ~

1915 illustration by Helen Stratton (April 5, 1867-June 4, 1961)
Jean Lang, A Book of Myths (1915), pp 132-133
Jean Lang, A Book of Myths (1915), pp 132-133

Mythological origin: Prince Hyacinthus in Greece


Greek mythology associates hyacinths with rebirth. Hyacinthus (Greek: Ὑάκινθος, Hyakinthos) was the son of Clio (Greek: Κλειώ, “recount, make famous”), the muse of history. His father was variously genealogized, to two different areas of Greek, as:

  • King Pierus of Macedon in the northeast.

Or, in southern Greece in southeastern Peloponnese (Greek: Πελοπόννησος, Pelopónnisos, “island of Pelops”) as:

  • King Oebalus (Greek: Οἴβαλος) of Sparta
  • King Amyclas (Greek: Ἀμύκλας) of Sparta.


study of head of Apollo:

for 1630 oil on canvas painting La fragua de Vulcano ("Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan") by Diego Velázquez (June 6, 1599 – August 7, 1660)
private collection
private collection


The sun god, Apollo (Greek: Ἀπόλλων, Apollōn) and the god of the west wind, Zephyr (Greek: Ζέφυρος, Zéphuros, "the west wind"), vied for Hyacinthus’ affections.

  • The evil eye of jealousy opened in Zephyr when Hyacinthus showed a clear preference for Apollo.
  • In revenge, while Apollo and Hyacinthus were taking turns throwing a discus (a heavy stone disk), Zephyr blew Apollo’s throw off course so that the disk, hurtling against Hyacinthus’ head, killed him.


Zephyrus, usually mildest as west wind, clasps Chloris who begins transformation from nymph into Flora, goddess of flowers:

detail of "Primavera", c.1482 tempura on panel by Sandro Botticelli (c.1445 - May 17, 1510)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze (Florence), northwestern Italy
Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze (Florence), northwestern Italy



Rather than allow Hades (Greek: Άΐδης, Aidēs, “the unseen”), the god of the dead, to lay claim to the prince’s body, Apollo created a flower, the hyacinth, from Hyacinthus’ blood.



Hyacinthus orientalis: closeup
Hyacinthus orientalis: closeup


Anciently Spartans commemorated the death of Hyacinthus with the Hyacinthia (Greek: Ὑακίνθια, Hyakínthia), an annual three-day festival held in early summer during the Spartan month of Hyacinthius. The stark mourning of the first day spiked into joyous celebration of Hyacinthus’ rebirth, with all glory due to Apollo, on the second day. The events of the third day, which apparently involved solemn observations and probably secretive mystery rites, were never detailed in historical accounts, but did entail the offering of a length of fabric, a chiton (Greek: χιτών, khitōn), woven by Spartan women, to Apollo.


Popularly known as baby's breath, Muscari botryoides is often viewed as the true grape hyacinth.

Muscari botryoides
Muscari botryoides

Grape hyacinths


Grape hyacinths (Muscari) are sometimes confused with Hyacinthus orientalis. Nevertheless, they emit a musky scent which differs from the fragrance of H. orientalis. Another significant difference is the shape of their flowers.

Of the four subgenera, or subgroups, of grape hyacinth, Botryanthus (Muscari botryoides), popularly called baby's breath, is the subgroup that is often viewed as the true grape hyacinth.

Most commonly colored pale to blackish blue, the urn-shaped flowers of grape hyacinths resemble grape clusters. The mouth of the flower is constricted. As such, its silhouette, unlike the common hyacinth, does not flare into a bell shape.


wild grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)

Oshakan, western Armenia
Oshakan, western Armenia

Muscari armeniacum


Muscari armeniacum in the Botryanthus grouping is the most common cultivar of grape hyacinth. Muscari armeniacum produces blue, purple, or white flowers on stems that are usually about 6 inches tall.


My spring hyacinths: Lavender blue hyacinths and lavender purple grape hyacinths

The hyacinths that have emerged in my yard are lavender blue hyacinths and lavender purple grape hyacinths. They brighten the otherwise slumbering garden that stretches along the northeast half of my front porch. On the terrace to the east they gently hug a burgeoning boxelder (Acer negundo), a species of maple that is native to North America.


Virginia bluebells, also known as Virginia cowslips

Virginia bluebells tolerate dry, hot weather under established trees.
Virginia bluebells tolerate dry, hot weather under established trees.

Virginia Bluebells


Native to eastern North America, the Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica) is also called Virginia cowslip, lungwort oysterleaf, or Roanoke bell. Its pink buds enchantingly turn blue as they open into baby blue bell-shaped flowers. These bells of blue give a soft, warm impression that is reminiscent of a baby blue bunting in a baby boy’s room. When they nod in a light spring breeze, the entire plant appears to be an orchestra of bell ringers playing a melody beyond the range of human hearing.


My spring bluebells: soft bells of baby blue

The Virginia bluebells in my yard enjoy the safety of the box elder tree on the east terrace. Two tall eastern white pines (Pinus strobus) form a parallelogram (a quadrilateral with two paired sets of parallel sides) with the boxelder and a silver maple (Acer saccharinum), which still lacks its leafy finery. This arrangement seems to be beneficial for the bluebells as they slightly and unobtrusively have expanded their domain to encompass the entire northwestern slope at the foot of the magnanimous box elder, which shades almost every spring cultivar on the eastern terrace.


sweet violet (Viola odorata): also known as English common violet or garden violet

Karlsruhe,  Baden-Württemberg state, southwestern Germany
Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg state, southwestern Germany

Wild Violets


Wild violets are in the Viola genus in the violet family, Violaceae. The leaves of Viola species are typically heart-shaped. The flowers and leaves of wild violets seem to rise magically from the ground. Wild violets tend to have herbaceous stems, wherein their leaves and stems are conjoined indistinguishably into acaulescence (Latin: acaulis, “without a stem”). Thus, lacking any noticeable stems, their flowers and leaves seem to be sprouting directly out the ground. They are neckless (i.e., stemless) wonders.

The profusion of flowers ranges from violet or purple to blue, cream, yellow, and white. Cultivars are sometimes bicolored, oftentimes violet and white.


Viola confections

Parma Violet candy tablets
Parma Violet candy tablets

Viola alba and Viola odorata: violet confections


Of mysterious origin, parma violets are attributed to the species of Viola alba. These exotic violets are thought to have been introduced into Italy in the sixteenth century, where they long have been appreciated for their fragrance and floral coloration.

Parma violet petals are an essential ingredient of Crème Yvette, a uniquely flavored liqueur created originally by Sheffield Company of Connecticut in the 1800s and produced subsequently by Charles Jacquin et Cie of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, beginning in the 1930s.

Parma Violets are a violet-flavored tablet confectionary produced by Swizzels Mallow of Derbyshire, East Midlands, England. The popular, pale violet sweet discs are named as a tribute to these legendary, richly prized violets.

Native to Europe and Asia, the species Viola odorata was introduced into Australia and North America, where it has adapted well. Its common names include common violet, English violet, and garden violet. Because of its distinctive, sweet fragrance, it is usually referred to as sweet violet.

Violet syrup, made from violet extract, is popular in France. In 1912 Georges Monin founded Monin in Bourges, in central France, as purveyors of flavored syrups for beverages and foods. In 1992, Olivier Monin, Georges' grandson, assumed presidency from his father, Paul, and instituted the company's global expansion into the Asia, the Middle East, and the New World. In support of American distribution, Monin USA opened offices in Clearwater, Florida, in 1993 and a manufacturing plant there in 1996.

In the United States, sweets such as violet marshmallows are concocted from the syrup. Violets have been treasured for their flavor, fragrance, and visual appeal in the Old World since colonial times.


common blue violet (Viola sororia): also known as purple violet and wood violet

Viola sororia
Viola sororia

Viola sororia


Common names for Viola sororia include common blue violet, purple violet, and wood violet. Native to eastern North America, this wood violet, with its edible flowers and leaves, has historical uses as food and medicine. Native Americans and early colonists sought its use in the treatment of colds, headaches, and sore throats.


My spring violets:

  • Viola odorata in lavender purple and purple,
  • Viola sororia bicolored purple and white

Viola flowers twinkle like colorful stars at the base of the European yews (Taxus baccata) that stand as glorious, broccoli-colored sentinels on either side of the steps that ease passage to the eastern terrace. Lavender purple and purple Viola odorata hug the awakening ground and share space in equanimity with their purple-white bicolored cousins, Viola sororia. Temperate in their distribution, they are all welcome and invited guests on the terrace and along its retaining wall.


Narcissus jonquilla

Real Jardín Botánico, Madrid, central Spain
Real Jardín Botánico, Madrid, central Spain



Jonquils (Narcissus jonquilla) are often confused with their daffodil cousins. Nevertheless, their differences crowd out their similarities. Jonquils’ tube-shaped leaves are dark green.

Whereas daffodils have one blossom per stem, jonquils flower in clusters on their stems. Its shade of yellow distinguishes the jonquil. In fact, jonquil is a color name for a specific tone of yellow on the chart of over 50 shades of yellow.

Finally, an outstanding feature of Narcissus jonquilla is its fragrance, which has long been valued in perfumes.


My spring jonquils: sparkling like gold

Jonquils stake their sleek claim to the turf at the northern base of a slender Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia) that graces the northern curve of the gravel driveway that unassumingly sculpts the entrance onto my yard. They almost seem to be playing a shy game of hide and seek behind the elm. Then suddenly their flowers, dancing with the gentle breeze, sparkle like gold.


Narcissus jonquilla

Real Jardín Botánico, Madrid, central Spain
Real Jardín Botánico, Madrid, central Spain

Conclusion: Spring transformations


Rebirth, renewal, and resurrection are all associated with springtime. Transformation from winter's landscape to spring's emergence is pleasurably obvious. These colorful early apparitions valiantly respond to their awakening calls, even though winter has not always made good on its exit.

Bluebells, hyacinths, and jonquils initially droop after an unexpected snowy dusting, but in my yard they are planted near protective companions. Sheltered by their arboreal refuges against the vagaries of the winter-to-spring interface, these harbingers of change quickly spring back to affirm the constancy of the cycle of life in the natural world.


Viola odorata's pleasing pastel palette

Viola odorata
Viola odorata



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Hyacinthus orientalis

Canberra, southeast Australia
Canberra, southeast Australia

Sources Consulted


Lang, Jean. A Book of Myths. With sixteen original drawings in colour by Helen Stratton. New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1915.

  • Available via Project Gutenberg at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22693/22693-h/22693-h.htm#Page_129


delicate beauty

Virginia bluebells
Virginia bluebells
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Magnum Opus: Capercailzie ~ 1933 colour lithograph by Harry Wearne (1852 - 1929)

Capercailzie (Tetrao urogallus) with faunal and floral abundance, including a carpet of Virginia bluebells (lower left)
Magnum Opus: Capercailzie, Pub. 1933 (Colour Litho)

four seasons by Czech Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha (July 24, 1860 – July 14, 1939): spring (printemps), summer (été), autumn (automne), winter (hiver)

1000 piece jigsaw puzzle; finished size: 26.75" x 18.5"
1000 Piece Alphonse Mucha Jigsaw Puzzle

Les Saisons by Alphonse Mucha

Les Saisons

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 08/20/2014, DerdriuMarriner
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


DerdriuMarriner on 03/10/2016

sandyspider, Spring has sprung since I've seen robins, spring azures, spring peepers and, as of this morning, the first blooming daffodils!

sandyspider on 03/09/2016

This is really putting me in the spring mold with the beautiful flowers.

Mira on 04/25/2015

Thank you! Good luck with the workshop :)

DerdriuMarriner on 04/25/2015

Mira, Thank you for the link, which I quickly visited, as I have to prepare for a workshop in a few hours. They do give impressions of being ornamental fruit trees. I'll be back for a closer look.

Mira on 04/25/2015

Hi again, I've posted some photos on my blog. Please click on them to see the larger photos. Thank you for this. Hopefully you'll identify some of the trees.

DerdriuMarriner on 04/25/2015

Mira, City Hall probably isn't used to tree questions, which hopefully may be more desirable than some of the questions which they field. Botany students and the university really should be helpful resources. You could contact the department online or by phone to express your interest in tree identification, and hopefully they'll respond with helpful answers or referrals.
Tree identification via photos can encounter rough patches because the best method is on-site observation. Could you pick out a photo which you consider clear of leaves on a branch, and I'll see what I see?

Mira on 04/25/2015

I'll ask at city hall but I imagine I won't run into any solicitous people. I may have better luck with botany students, as you say. I'll stop by the university one day to try my chances :)

DerdriuMarriner on 04/25/2015

Mira, Park headquarters used to keep records of their plantings. It's unfortunate that signs aren't uniformly posted alongside the different tree types.
Is there an administrative office for parks in Bucharest? Also, is there a university in Bucharest with a department such as Botany, Forestry, or Horticulture?

Mira on 04/25/2015

I wish I knew whom to ask about trees in a specific park. They should have little panels with information. I think sometimes they do, when it's a rare tree. In fact, I know they do because I remember some of them. But most trees are hard to identify, and what I find very strange is that no one seems to know what they are. I sent the photos to a friend who knows her trees but she confused them with apple / pear / plum trees, which they're not, because they're ornamental trees.

DerdriuMarriner on 04/25/2015

Mira, Is there a resource for identifying the trees? If they're in a park, is there staff with information on what's planted there? Do you think that they are native to Bucharest, or are they naturalized? What can you tell me about these trees -- their silhouettes, their bark, their leaves, their flowers (if any)? Do their leaves alternate or are they opposite?
Your article on trees there would be a nice tribute and welcome for spring.

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