To the gardener winter is long, dull, and gray, a time for planning, ordering seeds, and dreaming of gardens bursting with blooms. The past winter was an exception, it wasn’t gray, but white, dreary, and seemingly endless. Thankfully it’s over, by the calendar and weather!
The spring blooming bulbs have survived their extended period hidden beneath the thick cover of snow, and are popping out no worse for the wait, except for my poor crocus that are struggling to put on much of a show. As is usual I lament that I have not planted a few hundred more of this, and perhaps several dozen of that to enliven the garden in the late days of winter.
I am surprised again, though I should know better after repeating the mistake for a third decade, that a bag of small bulbs does not immediately make a breathtaking impact. Still, even in drifts of seven or twelve, hardly enough to find if you weren’t the one who planted them, each new crocus (above), puschkinia (below), and snowdrop is delightful.
This year the snowdrops (below) had the good sense to remain hidden snug and warm below the surface until the snow retreated, so this year there will be no photographs of the tiny nodding blooms pushing up through the snow. Snowdrops are not extravagant unless planted in drifts of many hundreds, and I have no such an expanse, but the few dozen that grow near the front entry walk are delightful.
I have commented earlier in the week that ‘February Gold’ narcissus (below) was late, barely poking through the ground when the snow melted, and opened its blooms two weeks into March along with varieties that should be a few weeks later with more typical late winter conditions. I have a particular fondness for the dwarf forms of narcissus, as they seem to spread more quickly, are quite inexpensive, and make a wonderful show in late February and early March.
Also late to arrive was Iris reticulata (below), which unfortunately faded after a few warm days, but is exceptionally beautiful and a favorite for late winter blooms. As is common with many of the so-called “minor” bulbs, after flowering the foliage disappears quickly so there is no need to have another plant cover the yellowing leaves. For a modest expense the early irises are a sound investment.
Many of the bulbs in the garden have been here for nearly twenty years. Long ago the last of the tulips planted at the forest’s edge fell victim to squirrels, or rot from the clay, but hyacinths and narcissus have persisted. The narcissus spread and improve with age while hyacinths (below) lose some vigor, but are still treasured.
And this is the appropriate place to give warning that hyacinths should only be forced and brought into the house in mid winter if your sense of smell is impaired, or if you are resistant to the overpoweringly sweet scent that pervades the house for the duration. Outdoors there is sufficient breeze and fresh air to dilute the scent, and here it is welcome. I have no doubt that there are people who could not live through the winter without hyacinth on the kitchen counter, but consider that you have been warned.
I’m quite certain that some will notice (before I say so) that I have neglected to supply the names of the bulbs shown here, with the exception of February Gold. The absolute truth is that for most I have no clue which narcissus or daffodil, crocus or hyacinth they are, and even with the alleged February Gold I am only nearly certain of their identity. I am aware that this is a travesty, and I believe that I pay more attention to perennials and woodies, but I am confident that you can select at random your collection of spring bulbs and be satisfied that you haven’t made a single poor choice.
There is no snobbery in being able to identify each bulb in the garden, and some gardeners are quite proficient at this, but this dullard is content to be surrounded by these late winter beauties and remain blissfully ignorant.
In the next few days I will follow up with shrubs that are blooming in this middle of March in the garden, and in another few days we’ll catch up on the flowering trees. After the long and snowy winter this will be a particularly exciting spring. I hope that you’ll join me in exploring the buds, bark, and blooms of the garden.