Little Bulbs For Great Results

We like trout lilies, sometimes called dog-tooth violets, for their graceful reflexed petals and gay natures. The slightest breeze send them into a ballet. They bloom in April and thrive in any damp semi-shady spot. They spread rapidly along a brook, sending progeny all up and down the water’s edge.

Another strong multiplier is the grape hyacinth, each like a little upside-down bunch of deep blue grapes on a green stalk. They rise up out of the ground early, coming in deep electric blue, pale blue or white, along with their thick clusters of somewhat tubular foliage. They remain quite lovely for many weeks, and are attractive and long lasting in bouquets as well. Grape hyacinths may be planted almost anywhere, in sun or semi shade, in the garden proper, in field or wilderness. For an unusually appealing combination, try some grape hyacinths beneath spring flowering shrubs, especially Viburnum carlesi, Kerria japonica, and magnolia. Click here for more info.

Wood hyacinths or English bluebells grow wild all over England and are fine in partialy shaded areas here, where they increase year after year. Flowering later are the Spanish hyacinths or squills. Both are in pink, blue and white, and have hyacinth-like florets.

There are four other much loved small bulbs that will multiply and thrive anywhere: snowdrops, waxy, white, with simple single or double blooms; glory of the snow, chionodoxa, blue with a white eye; Siberian squill, with deep blue, nodding blossoms; and snowflakes (which come later in May), with bell-like flowers that have scalloped edges touched with green.


Of all the spring-flowering bulbs for naturalizing, the daffodil doubtless is the most widely loved. And many locations are well suited to them. From the large yellow jonquils to the myriad different sorts of narcissi, all are ideal for spreading. Some growers have developed “weatherproof” varieties whose flowers are said to survive the beat of rain and wind.

daffodils In addition to the old standby daffodils, try some varieties that are unfamiliar to you. The Campernelle jonquil (Narcissus odorus) grows a cluster of flowers on each stem, is deep yellow and highly scented. Two other desirable cluster varieties are Poetaz with scarlet-orange and yellow cups, and Soliel D’or, a sweet-scented golden yellow. Laurens Koster is cream with a gold cup. Among the most appealing with deep-toned cups are Apricot Attraction and Incomparabilis. Double daffodils are indestructible and fine for indoor bouquets (in white, yellow and mixed shades). Theirs is a scent that is sweet, fresh and cool.


For an intimate area where you often walk in the spring, there are five delightful miniature daffodils all about six inches high and with tiny flowers. Narcissus bulbocodium conspicuous is the hoop petticoat daffodil—just one lovely flaring cup like the crinolines of old. N. minimum, brilliant gold, has a flower that is mostly frilly trumpet and that only a half-inch long. N. canaliculatus consists of clusters of very sweet-scented flowers, each with white reflexed petals and a small deep orange cup. There is N. triandrus albus, pure white, petals reflexed, and white cup.  N. cyclamineus, from Portugal, rare and exciting,


tulipsinthegardenWith a few exceptions, tulips are the spring bulbs that don’t multiply, but usually, even though the display diminishes, can be counted upon to reappear—especially the ones I shall mention. Each year I am drawn by a streak of red to the meadow. Here next to a clump of really heavy witch grass emerges a cluster of scarlet tulips. They must have been planted by accident ten years ago with the first daffodils we naturalized, and they have flowered ever since. So you never can tell what a tulip will do.

A number of low-growing tulips blossom in early April, including Tulipa Kaufmanniana (6 inches) that opens flat each day in the sun. Clusiana (12 inches) comes with peppermint stripes. Acuminata (15 inches) has unusual tapering petals, spidery and thread-like at the tips. Dasystemon (6 inches) unfolds in a cluster of as many as ten flowers to a single stem. Eichleri (8 inches) is a most passionate red with glossy black at the petal base.

Chameleon tulips, a form of cottage tulip, are about a foot or more tall and usually bloom early in May. These unfold pure white and turn pinker each day ending up deep rose. It’s great fun to watch them change. Of unique form is the parrot tulip, a loose petaled, fringy kind of flower with a wind-blown look.

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