Early season bulbs, sometimes called minor bulbs, are the very first plants to bloom in spring. This year, 2020, our earliest bulbs began blooming in the garden on March 15th! Many will push their cheerful flowers right up through standing snow. While these plants are small their power to lift the spirits in anticipation of spring are tremendous.
Each spring, when these earliest harbingers of spring emerge, I reflect on how much I appreciate their presence.
With few exceptions they are:
- Long lived: Most can be counted on to announce the arrival of spring for decades to come
- Increase over time: Most increase slowly over time while a few colonize enthusiastically
- Resistant to deer/rabbit browsing: With the sole exception of hybrid crocuses this group is resistant to critter damage
- Go dormant early: This group, after their early arrival, disappear into dormancy very quickly so that they do not interfere with perennials that emerge in April/May. Unlike later bulbs such as Daffodils and Tulips, there is no need to wait for unsightly foliage to ripen and die down. This characteristic makes them ideal for underplanting your shrub and perennial borders to provide an entire additional season of color. Those that self-sow (most notably Siberian Squill) will carpet the ground in color before anything else in the garden is even showing signs of life.
- Make lovely petite floral bouquets: One of the things I enjoy most about this group of plants is cutting them and bringing them indoors. Arranged in tiny bouquets, their color and fragrance are truly uplifting as the grey skies of March continue outdoors.
All of these bulbs need to be planted in autumn, so mark your calendars now with a notation to come see us this fall for a selection of these delightful early season bulbs. A small amount of time and energy spent planting in the fall will reward you with years of spring enjoyment. Read more about the three keys to success with bulbs in our article on How to Plant Bulbs.