07 November 2010

A Remedy for NO-vember: spring bulbs indoors & out

It's no secret that NO-vember is my least favourite month in the calendar. The lack of light gets to me, and today, the first day of going back to Atlantic Standard Time, it's dark at just after 5 pm. We've been deluged with rain the past several days too, so it's dreary and dark and soggy outside. HOWEVER...

...I did get a significant number of spring flowering bulbs planted before the rains started. The anticipation of them is a balm for the soul--remembering springs past, and springs to come. When I plant bulbs, I think of Stan Rogers' song The Field Behind the Plow, and though I'm not planting food crops, I like to think of planting bulbs like Stan felt about planting grain or potatoes or whatever, as putting "Another season's promise in the ground."

Bulbs amaze me. Those insignificant looking little nubbly lumps of plant material disappear deep into the garden's beds and borders, sleep for a few months, then burst forth in a rainbow of colour. From the most exotic to the (some might say) humble crocus, they're all wonderful.

The tenacity and determination of Galanthus (snowdrops) delights me. Some years, they're pushing through melting snow in their haste to get up and blooming. They shrug off frosts, and multiply each year.

Are you acquainted with Leucojum, given the common name of Summer Snowflake? For many, they bloom in late spring rather than summer, but in our cooler spring garden they have held on until well into June. Think of them as something like taller, elegant snowdrops. I think they're underused and wonderful.

Another of my favourite small wonders is Puschkinia, or striped squill. It's an early bloomer too, following along after the snowdrops and usually accompanying the hellebores. This is another colonizer, great for rock gardens and front-of-border plantings.

Alliums are fabulous, deer resistant, come in all sorts of colours and sizes...some have excellent, longlasting seedheads, and some self seed, like the amusing 'Hair', which I'll show in the next post.

Another excellent and later blooming species is Sicilian honeybells, Allium bulgaricum (formerly Nectaroscordum siculum or N. bulgaricum). It's another favourite, so unique with its green, purple and white bell clusters.

The petite Iris species like I. reticulata are enthusiastic bloomers, barely clearing the soil before their colourful blossoms form a petite-pointe against the awakening soil.

For those who crave true-blue flowers, you can't go wrong with scilla, or squill, with its nodding, cobalt blue flowers. Scilla forms gradual colonies and works well under deciduous shrubs and mixed with taller bulbs such as daffodils and early to midseason tulips.
Fritillaria are another great choice for those plagued by deer and squirrels in their gardens. This is the chequered or snakeshead lily, F. meleagris. Frits can be bothered by scarlet lily beetle, although I've never encountered this as a problem.

Chionodoxa is commonly called glory-of-the-snow, and is another of my favourite small wonders for the front of borders or in rock gardens. When happy, they gradually form nice colonies in blue, white...

or pink! They are very popular with early pollinators, as are the crocus.

The first time I planted winter aconite, I put them in too soggy an area of the garden, and they didn't come back for me. This year, I've put them in what I hope is a more convivial situation (although with all this rain, everything is currently soggy!) and I hope they'll delight me with their cheery little flowers.

Don't forget to plant some bulbs for indoor colour; you can often purchase pretreated hyacinths, which you just plant and wait to bloom, or else you can buy the less expensive untreated bulbs, give them 14 weeks of cool temperatures (under 45 degrees F) and then bring them into bloom. They were a real boon to me last winter. Just the thought of them makes the day a little brighter.

Next time: the bigger, showoff bulbs: tulips, daffodils, and more alliums. Do you have all your bulbs planted yet?


  1. I've just added more camassias - rodent proof and very blue!

  2. Wow, what a rainbow of spring flowers! I have my own photos of most of these last spring, but I don't know all their names. And then I found their names here. Thanks for this beautiful and informative blog. I enjoyed reading and viewing.

  3. This is the best time to dream of spring. I too hate the dark evenings and the dull days of NOvember. So I'm not thinking about NOvember but instead thinking ahead to December and the festivities.

  4. That was quite the photo display..thank you!! Yes, all bulbs are planted that I have bought so far..but with this weather..I might find a few discounts to jam in now that you have excited me about possibilities.

    Some wack of rain heh...the water table has made a small lake in the back yard and I guess those bulbs nearby are saying glug glug glug.

  5. I am jeaslous that you have so many different kinds of bulbs to play... , and they are all gorgeous in my eyes! Living in south Florida, we only can plant the tropical bulbs, not big choices, but better than none. I just ordered some bulbs to experiment. It would be interersting to see how they grow in our climate.

  6. What a treat for the eyes! A great selection of beautiful bulbs - I'm looking forward to spring already!

  7. I love bulbs too. I just planted some, I can't wait until spring!

  8. Hi Jodi, what a refreshing post!Fritillaria is one plant I have only seen in photos but am absolutely smitten with. On my list of plants to try!

    I hope this month holds some surprising delights for you. :)

  9. Dear Jodi, What a wonderful way to head off the winter blues. The thought of all those marvellous Spring bulbs is surely enough to make anyone's heart leap with joy. The anticipation of their flowering can sustain one through the harshest of winter months.

  10. Something's wrong here at VP Gardens this year. I've managed to plant all my bulbs 2 months ahead of when I usually manage it.

    Like you I'm looking forward to a fantastic show come the spring - it's what gets us through the winter isn't it?

    Whilst I was planting, I noticed the crocus and snowdrops were already beginning to poke their noses up out of the soil :)

  11. PS I forgot to say, it's nice to see you in your new Avatar on Twitter.

  12. Dear Jodi, what a tonic to see those bulbs shots! There is nothing like the magic of planting those bits and being surprised by them come spring. The earlier the better, when little else is going on in the garden makes even the smallest ones precious. But I thought your least favorite month was Farch? HA :-)

  13. i love your blue and purple flowers. i don't have flowers in blue or purple.

  14. I don't have any exotic spring bulbs, but I planted more this year - scillas, snowdropss, grape hyacinths, and more daffodils too. I planted alliums for the first time and can't wait to see them.

  15. I have about 40 crocus bulbs left to plant, and then I'm done! It's taken me so long to get everything planted, but I know how much I'll appreciate seeing all these early bloomers next spring. Now I wish I'd planted some squill, especially those striped ones--so pretty!

  16. You have made it seem that spring is already here. Lovely pictures. I am looking forward to my first snowdrop!

  17. Perhaps I should plant some bulbs, eh? Exquisite springtime surprises!

  18. Beautiful collection of blooms. Although, we still have some annuals and perennials in bloom around here which are creating interest outdoors.

  19. About the only time I envy you your climate is spring, with all these wonderful bulbs which are not an option here save for one. Snowflakes are an early spring flower in Sydney!


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