Bulbs for Early Color

‘Viridapice’ snowdrops (photo sent to me by the amazing Joan L)

Your comments on my last post, Trees and Shrubs for Early Color, click here to read, inspired me to write more with the goal of giving readers a bright spot during what is one of the grimmest times in our nation’s history. Please encourage all your gardening friends to read my blog.  And let’s make it even more interactive.  Leave comments about your experiences with the plants profiled or recommend similar plants and ask questions, nothing is too basic.  There is a wealth of knowledge in the gardening community that we can all share here.

The photos below are of flowering bulbs that provide late winter and very early spring color.  They are easy to grow, inexpensive to buy, and multiply readily.

I am dedicating this post to New York City Police Officer Tim G., whom we have known his whole life, and his fellow officers who continue to serve even though over 900 of them have tested positive for coronavirus.  And to the 11,000 health care workers who have contracted the virus in Spain.  In the face of their dedication, any sacrifice that we are asked to make seems trivial.  Stay home to save lives.

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops within the US.  For catalogues and announcements of local events, please send your full name, mailing address, and cell number to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com and indicate whether you are interested in snowdrops.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

.It is not going to surprise anyone who reads this blog that snowdrops, Galanthus, are my favorite bulb—I explain why in my post Classic Snowdrops, click here to read.  This is ‘Kite’, a large and elegant snowdrop that has the unique ability to produce twin flowers (two flowers on one stem).


Yes, snowdrops can be yellow.  A customer sent me this photo of the lovely ‘Wendy’s Gold’.



Everytime it gets warm enough during the winter for honeybees to fly, they swarm onto the snowdrops.  This honeybee on ‘Straffan’ has collected an impressive amount of bright orange pollen.


Winter-blooming hardy cyclamen, C. coum, starts blooming in early January and often continues through March.  This photo shows our last blooming stand on March 24.


The winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, along our woodland path flowers in February.  It is interplanted with common snowdrops, G. nivalis, which in this photo taken February 12 are not open yet.


Siberian squill, Scilla siberica, blooms in the most amazing color of blue in February and March.  It is still in bloom today.

.White Siberian squill, S. siberica ‘Alba’, is less common and really stands out in the winter landscape.

.‘Beth Evans’ corydalis (top of photo), C. solida, also known as fumewort, blooms through out March.  It is shown here with ‘Shell Pink’ lamium, which usually blooms in April but flowered early this year.

.Although we started with named cultivars of Corydalis solida, like ‘Beth Evans’ above, it has seeded through out our gardens in a multitude of beautiful colors.  It is a bulbous corydalis and much more reliable than the herbaceous coydalis in blues and purples, which look glorious in pots but can’t withstand our hot summers.  It goes dormant very quickly after it flowers.


In the last post, I showed glory-of-the-snow, Chionodoxa forbesii, under our star magnolis.  Its sky blue flowers look up and have an elegant white center.


Glory-of-the-snow comes in pink too, C. forbesii ‘Pink Giant’.


I especially like this white glory-of-the-snow, C. luciliae ‘Alba’, because it shows up so well in the winter garden.


‘Charmer’ Greek windflower, Anemone blanda, was new for us last year and is quite striking and unusual.  We have had the blue and white forms seeding happily in our woodland for years.


Two-toned grape hyacinth, Muscari latifolium, combines pale and dark blue in a single flower.  There are many forms of grape hyacinth, but this is my favorite.


A harbinger of things to come, Anemone x seemanii, European wood anemone, blooms in March, earlier than all my other wood anemones, which generally flower in April.  I hope to include more of them in a later post.


I have dozens of varieties of daffodils, Narcissus, planted all over the garden.  I am enjoying them more than ever this year, especially this early-blooming form right outside my front door whose name is lost in the mists of time.

My intent is to post on the blog more than once a week.  You can provide inspiration to me and other readers by posting comments about your own experience with these plants or other late winter bulbs.  Blogs are a lot more fun for everyone, especially the writer, when they are interactive.  Scroll down to the end of the page to the box where it says “Leave a Reply” and start typing—-it’s easy!


Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

18 Responses to “Bulbs for Early Color”

  1. So many pretty flower and colors! Daffs and narcissus are blooming full out in my garden, many with delightful fragrance. Perfect for vases inside. I need to try some of the bulbous corydalis, it’s really charming in that girly pink! Any recommendations on where/when to obtain? Love the latifolia grape hyacinths – I planted them in one spot and now they are all over my little quarter acre (I think the squirrels move them?). Enjoying your spring flower posts very much, thank you.

  2. susanne russell Says:

    THANKS for taking the time to share so many BRIGHT spots with the gardening world during these uncertain and scary times.
    May you and your family remain safe and healthy.
    Thanks so much, Sue R (Burlington, MA)

  3. Cynthia Cronin-Kardon Says:

    Carolyn: My four year old grandson lives with us and day care is now closed. As I take my turn watching him during the day, the flowers shown above have been been the perfect field expedition for our “nature” class. We have been able to talk about pollinators, the effects of weather and so many other things, all thanks to Carolyn’s Shade Garden.

  4. Page Morahan Says:

    Thank you for both the beauty and the education re names, etc.!

    I am doing many ‘meditative photography walks’ around where I live, noticing the shapes, colors, textures, and fragrances of all the spring flowers. I also like taking photos of what we generally call weeds or invasives or uninteresting brown pods.

  5. Carolyn, love the pictures and the information you post regarding the names of the flowers. I have some of them and did not now know their names. Your blog is so welcome during this time – end of winter and – stuck in the house, Not complaining, God love the helpers – nurses, doctors and first responders (police and fire). I am still waiting for my snow drops to bloom. It”s been a crazy winter for us in Cleveland. God bless you for sharing your knowledge with us. Keep well. Thanks, Lenore Goodwin (Strongsville, Ohio).

  6. Melissa Egbertson Says:

    Thanks so much for the beautiful pictures, Carolyn! The Stylophorum diphyllum (Celandine poppy) I got from you last year are up and making a lovely drift of green – can’t wait for them to bloom! Glad I bought 9! Cheers! Melissa Egbertson

  7. To many to comment on. Besides, I am not familiar with many of them. I still do not understand the allure of snowdrops. I am told that I would appreciate them more if we did not have so many other flowers blooming through winter. I intend to grow a few eventually, just to experience growing them. When I do, it will be a very simple and plain cultivar, and preferable the straight species if I can get them. Feral bulbs would do nicely. I know I will come across some eventually. Siberian squill is a nice one for us, and regardless of the bright blue, happens to fit into woodsy parts of the landscapes well. White squill would be RAD. (White happens to be my favorite color, and also happens to work well in visually dark landscapes surrounded by redwoods.) I have not grown any in white yet, but would probably do so if it ever comes up. Of course, the blue is here to stay. Glory of the snow sounds silly because it does not snow here. Of course, that would not stop us from growing it. The Greek windflower is another one that I would like to add to the woodsy parts of the landscapes. I had been hesitant to do so because I doubted that it would survive with the redwood debris. (Redwood debris has a mild herbicidal effect.) Now that I have seen in neighbors’ gardens, I am more likely to try it, probably blue or white, but not both. Grape hyacinth is one for my own garden, but not the landscapes at work. I intend to get the common weedy sort that I remember when I was a kid, but have been tempted by ‘Album’ which is a white version with a similar floral structure. I would probably stick with the blue, but would not turn down the ‘Album’ if I come across it. The modern cultivars are too flashy for me.

  8. marilyn sandau Says:

    One of my favorite early blooming plants is fritillaria. I have several varieties and love them all. There is something magical about the fritillaria meleagris with its checkerboard pattern. I can’t imagine how that came to be through natural selection! My one disappointment is that the deer, of which we have dozens roaming through town, decided to chomp off every flower on this supposedly deer resistant plant.
    My garden is bringing me much solace in this difficult time. Be well, everyone.

    • I love Fritillaria meleagris. It blooms later than all the plants in the post so I didn’t include it. Also, almost none of mine came up in spring 2019 and the replacements I planted then didn’t come up this year. I have had it growing happily for about 20 years. I am not sure what’s going on here as other people are not having this problem. I am sorry to hear that deer eat it.

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