In the Garden:
'Ice Follies' daffodils should be planted now for spring blooms.
Bulb Planting Time
When I first started gardening, I thought I had to get the spring-flowering bulbs planted in September or else forget about it. Since I'm always behind the eight ball, one year I decided to plant in late November rather than not plant at all. And guess what? I had beautiful flowers anyway. So don't be afraid to push the rules of gardening.
An Order of Bulbs
If you haven't ordered your bulbs yet, don't worry about not getting the best price or selection. Plenty of good varieties are still available, so don't forgo the pleasure of those spring flowers just because you've been busy. Ordering can be as quick as a phone call, logging on to a Web site, or visiting a local garden center.
Tulips are the stars of spring. With hundreds of varieties, choosing only a few can be daunting. To make the process a little easier, more and more companies are offering a package deal, with color-coordinated mixtures of tulips alone or several different types of bulbs. This makes life a little easier, as long as you can pick out your favorite color.
For some people, daffodils take precedence over tulips because they last longer in the garden and don't have to be dug up, divided, and replanted as often as tulips. My mother has accumulated dozens of different varieties, including "antique" ones she has moved from old homesteads.
One of the earliest daffodils to bloom also happens to be pretty showy. 'Ice Follies' has white petals around a flat lemon-yellow cup. At the other end of the time spectrum is another favorite, 'Thalia'. Perfect among late tulips or ground covers, 'Thalia' has white flowers, often two to a stem, with reflexed outer petals.
The Early Bloomers
It's been a tradition in our family to see who will be the first to spot the new growth of the earliest blooming bulbs that come up in late winter. Depending on the weather, they'll usually be in bloom sometime in February. Our favorites are the white-and-green snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis and G. elwesii), lavender-blue glory of the snow (Chionodoxa), and the blue, purple, or yellow snow iris (Iris reticulata and I. danfordiae).
Crocus, of course, are also known to bloom early. Just remember when ordering that different varieties bloom at different times, ranging from February up through April. Among the later blooming crocus, I'm most fond of the glistening 'Jeanne D'Arc', which I plant in my white garden.
And I'm never without at least a few hyacinths because they have one of the best fragances of all time. For all their lushness, hyacinths are actually very sturdy plants. I have some planted in various diificult places, yet they continue to bloom year after year, albeit a little more sparsely than the first year after planting.
And More Bulbs
Though I'm only skimming the surface of "bulbdom," I would be remiss in not suggesting that you consider the feathery, pale blue, late spring blooms of our native camassia, the tall snowdrop-lookalike summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum), as well as the wonderful world of alliums and fritillarias, with varieties ranging from dwarf to giant.
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