Early Blooming Bulbs for the First Flowers of Spring
Winter is my least favorite season, so I am always eager to get spring underway. It doesn’t really matter what the calendar says. For me, spring officially begins when the first flowers bloom, and for that I depend on three small but mighty bulbs: snowdrops, crocuses and chionodoxa. These early blooming bulbs are essentials for anyone who spends the winter months yearning for spring. Happily, they are also inexpensive, quick to plant and all are reliable perennials that multiply over time.
Start the New Season With Snowdrops
The earliest of the early are snowdrops. These dainty little flowers with their blinding white petals have an uncanny ability to push themselves up through frozen ground. No matter how early I start watching for them, they always appear sooner than I expect. One day there’s nothing and the next they’re in full bloom.
My snowdrops are on a south-facing slope and this gives them a big advantage. If you want the earliest possible flowers, plant your early-blooming bulbs in a spot with well-drained soil and a southern exposure.
There are dozens of different varieties of snowdrops with variations in petal size and markings. Most cultivars resemble a parasol, with spoon-shaped petals surrounding a small, straight-sided cup. The flowers dangle from slender stems and on sunny days they lift their petals as if ready to take off.
You may find it takes several years to establish a nice clump of snowdrops, but once they have naturalized, they will bloom every spring for generations to come.
Crocus Are the Bees Knees
Next come species crocus, also known as snow crocus. Their blossoms are smaller and more delicate than the standard crocus varieties that bloom just a little later. Bees are mad for crocuses, and these extra early bloomers always attract a crowd. Two of my favorite varieties are Firefly, with lilac-colored petals surrounding neon orange centers, and Romance, with two-tone petals that are ivory on one side and buttery yellow on the other.
Depending how quickly the weather warms up, giant crocus may start blooming before the snow crocuses have finished. Their flowers are definitely larger, though “giant” is stretching it. The colors are brighter, with the most popular varieties being purple Remembrance, golden Yellow Mammoth and pin-striped Pickwick.
Chionodoxa Twinkle Like Stars
Chionodoxa are the third leg of my goodbye-winter program. Also known as glory-of-the-snow, these little bulbs produce a cluster of stems topped with 3 to 10 star-like flowers. My favorite variety is bluebird-blue Chionodoxa forbesii, though I’m also a fan of the white, pink and lavender ones. An Assorted Mix lets you enjoy several lovely pastel colors.
Chionodoxa multiplies quickly by seed and by bulb offsets. The seeds are covered with a sweet substance and ants will often carry them off, replanting them in surprising places. Plant these bulbs by the handful and in no time at all your winter-weary eyes will be feasting on big puddles of color!
Spring-blooming bulbs are available from September through November, and planting them takes no time at all. Stick a shovel in the ground, lift it up just enough to toss in some bulbs and let the soil back down. Getting an extra 3 weeks of spring is really that easy!