Northern Shade Gardening

Earliest Spring Bulbs Flower at Edge of Snow

Sunday, April 24, 2011 Category: Bulbs

The exquisite flowers of Galanthus elwesii (snowdrops) and Crocus chrysanthus (snow crocus) bring tremendous joy, all out of proportion to their diminutive petal size. These small spring bulbs are the most anticipated in my garden. Both live up to their name, and start flowering right at the edge of the receding snow line. They don’t mind the freezing spring nights, and take advantage of the warm daylight filtering through the bare tree branches.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Snowbunting' (snow crocus) collage

Crocus chrysanthus 'Snow Bunting' (snow crocus) collage

These Crocus chrysanthus ‘Snow Bunting’ started flowering at the edge of the snow, just a day after it melted from above them. You can see the rest of the snow behind them, which still covers much of the garden. The little snow crocus don’t bother waiting for promises of warmer days. They get right to work, unrolling their pure white petals to expose the golden anthers inside. Any awakening pollinators should be happy to find the crocus flowers.

I planted the ‘Snow Bunting’ two falls ago, and they have twice as many flowers on them as last year. It’s good to know that they appreciate the site and are flourishing. This area gets shadier in the summer, but gets a medium amount of light in early spring, when the crocus can use it.

I have many other snow crocus just a little ways over, but they are still covered in deeper snow. If this warm weather continues, they might be flowering by the end of the week. We had deep cover this winter, so where snow patches have melted closer to the warmth of the house, the green of Crocus vernus (large Dutch crocus) has started to appear. Although they usually flower after the little snow crocus, they might be first this year, other than ‘Snow Bunting’. If the C. vernus flower early, and the C. chrysanthus flower late, they might both flower together this spring, which should make for a great display.

Galanthus elwesii first snowdrops

Galanthus elwesii first snowdrops

The Galanthus elwesii are also early risers. This is a ladybug’s view of the flowers, where you can see the details of green markings on the inner petals. The snowdrops are such graceful looking flowers, for having such a tough disposition. Mine don’t seem to spread much, and are still a fairly small patch.

The rest of the snowdrop bulbs are just popping their tips above the leaves. I leave the fallen leaves on the garden as a protective mulch, and have just started removing it, where it’s not still frozen to the ground. There are some other early spring bulbs nearby showing a few green tips through the leaves. The Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) and Scilla (squills) should be up soon, and will start flowering quickly, too.

earliest spring bulb flowers

earliest spring bulb flowers

Above is a collage of some early spring sightings this weekend. On the upper left is a picture of a fat, pink Helleborus bud. The Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’ perennials are full of these plump buds, which look as attractive as flowers. In another week or so, they should be opening as well. On the upper right are the leaves of Crocus vernus. There are dozens and dozens of them looking like green spears thrusting out of the old, crystallized snow and ice.

These first bulbs are flowering about 3 weeks later than last year. After a long off-season, it’s so heartening to finally see the first blooms. Now that the ground can finally feel the warmth of the sun, the rest of the bulbs should be coaxed out soon, and liven up the garden. I love the earliest spring bulbs that satisfy your thirst for blooms after the long flower drought, so pretty, so dainty,  and so appreciated.