Here are three tiny spring bulbs that add enchanting white blooms to the garden. Chionodoxa ‘Alba’ (white glory of the snow), Galanthus elwesii (Snowdrops), and Puschkinia scilloides (striped squills) are hardy, and will bloom through late frost and snow. Only the crocus manage to flower before them in my garden. These bulbs can take some shade too, so they work well under the trees.
The Galanthus elwesii are these first of these white spring bulbs to bloom in my garden. The miniature blooms are so enticing, that I always have to bend over to see the perfect little petals. The outer white petals flare out to either side, exposing the little green markings on the inside ones. The snowdrop above has two crossing light sabers on those inner petals. These dainty bulbs need to be viewed up close to be appreciated, since they only grow about 16 cm (6 in ) tall.
These Galanthus elwesii are the first snowdrops to thrive in my garden. Previous plantings of other types have not done well. I have planted more G. elwesii for the last two Autumns, but they are not filling in yet. They don’t all seem to come up, leaving the grouping a little sparse. I hope they spread a little more next year, but I am happy to see any Galanthus blooming at all. I’ve greatly admired pictures of large swathes of snowdrops planted through woodlands. However, I might need another 9970 to get up to official swathe size. :)
Snowdrops shrug off a late spring snowfall, continuing to bloom without stopping. This patch is in between some Helleborus and some Aruncus (dwarf goat’sbeard). The white snowdrops look great next to the evergreen leaves of Helleborus, even though the bloom times don’t overlap in my garden.
I admire the Galanthus elwesii flower in the above photo, blooming over the soft, new Aruncus foliage. I have different varieties of snowdrops, with distinctly different green markings on the inner petals, but they are not named varieties.
Chionodoxa ‘Alba’ is the all white version of glory of the snow, which is usually seen in its more common lavender and blue colours. I grow a blue type too, Chionodoxa luciliae. Unlike snowdrops, these simple flowers face upwards, making it easy to see the blooms. Because of their size, they look best in larger groupings, or near an entrance way, where they can be admired up close. I like the white version in the shadowy areas, because the light colours show up well. Even though they are small, I can see the white patch as I view them through my windows.
The Chionodoxa flowers are very simple, with six elongated petals. They are about 14 cm (5.5 in) tall when they flower. The leaves are very long and narrow, like all of these bulbs, and disappear reasonably quickly after the flowers have faded. The surrounding perennials quickly hide the decaying foliage as they grow, and their flowers will replace these ones.
The Puschkinia (striped squills) are available in both a white form and a white with blue stripes form. Puschkinia scilloides ‘Libanotica’ are not pure white, but have a light blue stripe down the middle of each petal. They have an overall white appearance from a distance, but a pale blue look up close. The Puschkinia scilloides ‘Alba’ are the white version of the blue striped squills. However even on those, you can see the faintest blue stripe down the middle of each petal, when you view them up close.
Here are the adorable buds of Puschkinia scilloides ‘Libanotica’. I find the tight buds as attractive as the open, frilly flowers. The striped squills are a more robust looking bulb than the other two, with more petals packed in clusters. These stand about 20 cm (8 in) tall. They are the showiest of the small bulb flowers, with the most number of petals packed into the space. The Puschkinia bulbs bloom at the same time as the Chionodoxa.
These charming white spring bulbs are fun to admire up close, when so few other plants are blooming, or even sprouting. You can savour their lovely white blooms, before the overwhelming rush of summer flowers. Do you have any favourite early spring blooms?