Northern Shade Gardening

Charming White Spring Bulbs

Saturday, April 24, 2010 Category: Bulbs
Chionodoxa 'Alba' (white glory of the snow) in light

Chionodoxa 'Alba' (white glory of the snow) in light

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.

Galanthus elwesii (snowdrop) inner markings

Galanthus elwesii (snowdrop) inner markings

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. :)

Galanthus elwesii (nowdrop) over Helleborus foliage

Galanthus elwesii (nowdrop) over Helleborus foliage

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.

Galanthus elwesii (snowdrop) over Aruncus foliage

Galanthus elwesii (snowdrop) over Aruncus foliage

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' (white glory of the snow)

Chionodoxa 'Alba' (white glory of the snow)

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.

Chionodoxa 'Alba' (white glory of the snow) with buds

Chionodoxa 'Alba' (white glory of the snow) with buds

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.

Puschkina scilloides 'Libanotica' (striped squills) petals closeup

Puschkina scilloides 'Libanotica' (striped squills) petals closeup

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.

Puschkina scilloides 'Libanotica' (striped squills) buds

Puschkina scilloides 'Libanotica' (striped squills) buds

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?

20 Responses to “Charming White Spring Bulbs” »

  1. Rebecca @ In The Garden :
    April 24, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    The certainly are charming Northern, the shape of the Chinodoxa is especially nice. :)

  2. Northern Shade :
    April 24, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Rebecca, I fixed the comment for you. I like the shape of Chionodoxa, too. Both the blue and white ones look attractive in the garden, and are not fussy. They handle a fair amount of shade, and still produce flowers.

  3. Rebecca @ In The Garden :
    April 24, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Thanks for the fix! I seem to be unable to grow anything other than crocuses, daffs & sometimes tulips. Not sure why, but many bulbs don’t seem to like it here.

    Also, I missed your post in my ‘After the Snow’ entry, it’s good to know that your hydrangeas are also still biding their time. I will try to remain patient.

  4. Northern Shade :
    April 24, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Rebecca, it’s unfortunate that some bulbs don’t grow well in you garden, but at least crocus, daffodils and tulips will make a pretty spring garden. I’ve had trouble getting the Galanthus to make a more full grouping, but it seems to have improved a bit this year.

  5. Deborah Elliott :
    April 24, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    I like the name of your blog; it sounds refreshing! I probably could have called mine “Southern Shade”. I like the photos of your galanthus, and also the cute striped squills. After a long winter, you must be very happy to see these charming bulbs!

  6. Northern Shade :
    April 24, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Deborah, the sight of the bulbs coaxes me out into the garden a number of times a day. I plant many early spring plants to get the garden off to a quick start. The striped squills really are appealing. I have some in three different garden beds, including a meandering river of them through one bed.

  7. The Garden Ms. S :
    April 24, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    What a sweet collection. I think a volunteer squill with pale blue stripes showed up in my garden. I was surprised at how tiny and delicate it was. It is so charming but looks very lonely on its own. I think I will have to look out for some bulbs this fall and add some.

    Your little galanthus with the crossed light sabres is a real charmer!

  8. Adrian Thysse :
    April 25, 2010 at 6:23 am

    I much admire all the work you have put into the garden planting all those bulbs!

    My favourite early spring bloom is Pulsatilla vulgaris, the pasque flower – the European version of our prairie ‘crocus’. In our garden it self-seeds, so it has been slowly spreading and has been very reliable. It also has the bonus of forming beautiful seed heads, so it has a long season of interest.

    Two bulbous plants that are blooming now in our garden are the snake’s head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris)and the Siberian squill (Scilla sibirica), both of which can also spread by self seeding.

  9. Northern Shade :
    April 25, 2010 at 8:41 am

    The Garden Ms. S, how lucky to get a pretty bulb volunteering in your garden. A little group around it would look great. Most of my volunteers right now are maple seedlings.

    Adrian, I didn’t know that the Pulsatilla self-seeded so readily. I have been looking at the pictures of Fritillaria on garden blogs this spring, and thinking about planting next Fall. If they are successfully self-seeding for you, they must be very hardy here. I love the blue Scilla, which are just starting to open their buds right now in my garden.

  10. Shady Gardener :
    April 25, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Northern, Yea! Happy Spring. Is your aruncus the dwarf variety? I have one and it’s very, very cute! :-) Your Puschkinia (striped squills) are very sweet. Suppose I’ll have to look for some of these! ha?

  11. Northern Shade :
    April 25, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Shady Gardener, yes, it’s Aruncus aethusifolius, the dwarf goat’sbeard. I like the way it forms neat mounds of foliage, and the new spring leaves are adorable, so tightly packed. The Puschkinia are really showy for such small bulbs, because the florets face out all around the flower stalk.

  12. Linda :
    April 25, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    I am in love with the Chionodoxa ‘Alba’ (white glory of the snow)! I’ve never seen these before but they are already on my list of Spring bulbs next year. Are they fragrant, by any chance?

  13. Pomona Belvedere :
    April 25, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    There’s something about the innocence of early spring flowers that’s appealing. Thanks for showing your selection; I hadn’t grown the white form of Chionodoxa and it’s very refreshing. And the aruncus foliage is giving me a new desire for that plant. I’ll put in a good word for your fritillary idea; I love fritillaries, though some species love moist and some love dry, so check that out when you’re choosing.

  14. Northern Shade :
    April 25, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Linda, I don’t notice a strong scent to the Chionodoxa, but the flowers are very pretty. They flower very early, right after the Galanthus and Crocus.

    Pomona, I love the blue flowered Chionodoxa too, but the white blooms stand out in the shadier areas. The dwarf Aruncus makes a great foliage plant. They are very neatly rounded, with lots of tightly packed leaves. They might not bloom for long, but they look good all season, right up to the frost.

  15. Christine B. :
    April 25, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Favorite spring blooms? That would be anything and everything that decides to show it’s mug this time of year. Still snow in the yard but the crocuses are up (or trying to be) and the scillas, too. I’m not picky this time of year….

    Christine in Alaska

  16. Marie :
    April 26, 2010 at 12:38 am

    What a lovely post :)
    I love the springtime :)

  17. Joy :
    April 26, 2010 at 4:56 am

    Northern Shade ! You have absolutely convinced me to gather snow drop bulbs for the Autumn planting .. I have always loved these cuties but haven’t done the bulb thing properly .. but I am making sure to now .. I have room in the raised beds in between the hellebore .. they would be lovely and I won’t lose them ! .. I love the white .. most people wouldn’t think of white as a Spring flower because of the snow factor for us .. we crave colour .. but these bulbs you have shown us are truly gorgeous !
    Joy

  18. Northern Shade :
    April 26, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Christine B., I know what you mean. Those first flowers seem extra special after the long absence. I hope your crocus can keep their heads above the snow. If you have Scilla up, you could probably grow Chionodoxa and Puschkinia too. I find the Galanthus not quite as reliable.

    Marie, thanks. More spring bulbs are opening quickly no, and I’m starting to see some early perennial buds that are waiting to take over.

    Joy, once the snow has disappeared, and after the crocus, the little white bulbs seem sweet. Mine haven’t grown in thick clumps, yet, but they might fill in quicker in your zone. I’ve seen in European gardens that they plant them in bunches “in the green”, in springtime, but they are never offered that way around here.

  19. Kathleen :
    April 27, 2010 at 8:37 am

    I planted some Puschkinia after seeing them on your blog last spring. They are so pretty! Glad you are seeing spring now. It feels so slow arriving this year (even here).

  20. Northern Shade :
    April 27, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Kathleen, they are appealing little flowers. I have a river of them running through three different garden beds, between the perennials, and they really brighten the beds before the other flowers come out.

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