Friday, February 27, 2009

Late Winter Flowers

I love living where it's possible to have flowers blooming in the yard all year. I'm especially fond of flowers that bloom before March 21, the first day of Spring. These late winter flowers may not be as pretty as flowers that bloom other times of the year. The fact that they bloom when little else will is what endears them to me.

Hellebores (H. orientalis) are the first to bloom in my garden. I started out with three plants a number of years ago. These rather expensive perennials volunteer like crazy, and have become downright weedy by popping up all over the yard. I now have a large grouping of them with flowers in cream, pink, and nearly maroon. The first blooms appear in December or early January, and continue well into March. The evergreen foliage is attractive all year and nothing (deer or rabbits) eats it.

Nothing says spring like daffodils. We have hundreds of maybe five different varieties--mostly yellow with yellow trumpets and white with yellow trumpets--scattered throughout the wooded side of the garden. They look better every year. Dividing and replanting overgrown clumps has become an annual chore. Nothing eats daffodils either. Sooner or later, we're going to have to start finding new homes for the offspring.

A long path through the wooded side of the yard is edged on one side with grape hyacinths backed by about 60 pink hyacinths and flats of white viola and deep red dianthus. I like grape hyacinths because they multiply like crazy, and the foliage appears in the fall for late season and winter interest. I love the smell of hyacinths, and around here the bulbs will continue to bloom for several years after planting. The hyacinths and grape hyacinths have just started to bloom.

I planted 100 deep purple crocus the first day I moved into the house. They steadily increased for a number of years, but now the chipmunks and squirrels are eating them. So we've been adding crocus that are white and white with purple stripes. They're all blooming throughout the wooded side of the garden. Back in Kentucky, crocus always bloomed before daffodils but here in Athens, it's the other way around. Go figure.

I love what are often referred to as "minor bulbs". Most of my favorites grow and bloom when practically everything else is dormant. Once they're done, they go dormant. That makes it easy to find a spot for them in even the most crowded garden. I have maybe 30 different varieties scattered throughout the garden to bloom at different times of the year. Right now hundreds of dwarf iris in shades of purple are in full bloom, with blue scilla just starting to pop up.

It's the time of year when I most enjoy walking through the garden. Every day there's something new to see--a new variety sprouting or something new starting to bloom. This will continue from now to May or June. And as always, this year's garden promises to be the best ever--barring drought and with the cooperation of local wild life.

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