The bulb catalogs have started arriving! And what a smart move, as we're all seeing those heralds of spring popping up with the melting of the snow. Usually, it's the big, bold blossoms that catch our eyes; the Tulips, Daffodils, and Hyacinths are what most of us think of when we think of spring bulbs. But don't overlook the diminutive little guys that, when planted thoughtfully, can provide stunning visual impact.
Crocuses are the often the first blooms of the year, some varieties bravely opening while snow still surrounds them. While they are small, being the only color at the time they bloom, they call for attention. Little clusters of Crocuses are charming tucked here and there in little niches around the garden, but they can be so much more. Instead of planting a dozen corms here and there, consider planting drifts of 50 or 100 corms throughout the garden. The mass of color, when everything else is dull and brown, is magical! Normally when planting short statured plants, we place them at the front of the border, but when Crocuses bloom, there is nothing else growing. So plant them lavishly throughout the garden. They will certainly show up! The first to bloom are those called "Snow Crocus," mostly cultivars of Crocus chrysanthus, Crocus biflorus, and Crocus tommasinianus. Just as they finish blooming, large-flowered Crocus vernus cultivars burst into bloom, about the time the first Daffodils start opening. The only drawback to Crocuses is that rodents love them. Squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits often nibble the blooms, foliage, and corms. C.tommasinianus, often called "tommies," seem to be less attractive to rodents.
If rodents are prevalent in your area, there are lots of other great little bulbs that are left alone. Some of my favorites are Scilla (Squills), Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow), Galanthus (Snowdrops), Eranthis (Winter Aconite), and Muscari (Grape Hyacinth). I have never seen any of these bothered by rodents or other pests. As with Crocuses, you can achieve a dramatic visual impact by planting these little bulbs en masse, and with most, the show gets better each year, as they increase abundantly and some even naturalize into the lawn. Most increase not only by producing bulblets, but also by dropping seeds, and being small plants, the seedlings of these little gems reach blooming size within a year or two. Another great thing about various cultivars of Scilla, Chionodoxa, and Muscari is that they offer some of the truest shades of blue among flowers, blue being the most elusive color in the garden.
While it may sound extravagant at first to consider planting these bulbs by the hundred or more, considering that many are quite inexpensive, and the little bulbs are easy to plant, the only thing extravagant about it will be the spring display!