Small But Mighty: Minor Bulbs Make Major Impact In Any Spring Garden
The heavy hitters in the spring garden are tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinths. However, there are hundreds of flowers that bloom between February and May in the Midwest and northern states that are exceptionally hardy, inexpensive, and adaptable to various soil and climatic conditions. Most of these bulbs naturalize over time, meaning that the gardener enjoys an ever-growing display throughout the years once planted. More gardeners should consider these “minor” bulbs for landscaping plans.
The common thread running through these minor bulbs is that most originated in the rugged climes and thin soils associated with mountain regions. For example, Muscari and Ornithogalum originated in the mountains of Turkey and Greece. Scilla siberica is native to Russia, Siberia and Ukraine. Cold winters and brief summers are candy to these flowers, and many begin to bloom before the last snowfall of the season.
Below we list a few minor bulbs to consider.
Grape Hyacinth (Muscari spp)
One of the more well-known minors is the grape hyacinth (Muscari spp.). These dainty beauties come in pure white and delicate pink colors and range from azure blue to deep purple; one variety starts with light blue florets and grows progressively darker as the bells closest to the stem open
Grape hyacinths are mildly fragrant, love full sun and spread like wildfire. Luckily, rampant as these flowers are, they are also very shallow-rooted; the bulbs sit just about an inch below the soil’s surface. This allows them to share space with lawn grass, shrubs and perennials. The foliage dies down once the weather turns warm and blends in easily with bark or rock mulch.
Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow)
Another minor is the lesser-known Chionodoxa, commonly known as “glory of the snow.” These tiny star-shaped flowers come in shades of blue; some are bi-color blue with white highlights, and they bloom in very early spring. The plant only reaches 4″ tall, and 25 bulbs will fit nicely into a 1-foot square plot.
Similar in appearance to Chionodoxa is the fragrant Ipheon. These bulbs range from white to periwinkle blue and bloom in April or early May; the plants reach 6 to 8 inches in height.
Scilla and Hyacinthoides (Spanish Bluebells)
Scilla (squill) and Hyacinthoides (Spanish bluebells) are spring beauties and woodland flowers. Ideally suited for partial to deep shade, these two genera look like a very loosely-packed hyacinth. Scilla generally hosts deep blue pendant flowers, while Hyacinthoides come in deep blue, pale blue, white and pink
A spectacular spring display can be had by planting drifts of scilla and Hyacinthoides under spring-flowering trees such as dogwood, redbud or crabapple. Scilla is an aggressive ground cover plant and reproduces by bulb divisions and seeds; keep it contained by trimming off spent flower heads after they bloom.
Anemones (Grecian Windflowers)
Anemones (Grecian windflowers) are ground-hugging plants with daisy-like flowers. These flowers bloom around the end of April, flowering best when the sun starts to radiate the first glimmers of summer’s warmth.
Planting Minor Bulbs
Planting minor bulbs is much easier than working with larger daffodils and tulips. Most of the minor bulbs are less than one inch in size; the planting hole, then, needs to be only deep enough to accommodate the bulb. A good planting trowel or dibble is the only planting tool required. Also, the planting area can be very compact, as bulbs need only be spaced a maximum of 6″ apart.
Over the years, these minor bulbs will fill in nicely. Once planted, apply a bulb-booster fertilizer at the per-square-foot rates recommended on the package, water the plot well if rain has been scarce, and mulch after the ground is frozen.
Planting time for these bulbs begins in late September in the northern United States and goes through November; these bulbs are hardy enough to go into the ground as long as it isn’t frozen. Bulbs should be dug, divided and shared with friends and neighbors when flowering becomes spotty and the flowers that are produced are small.
The Lasting Beauty of Minor Bulbs
Minor bulbs offer tremendous returns for a minimal investment in time and money and are a bulwark in maintenance-free gardening. Set them, forget them, and enjoy an eruption of tiny blooms covering the earth in early spring.
Do You Need Help With Your Spring Landscaping
Feel free to contact Fernandez & Sons Landscaping and Maintenance. We will be happy to help you with your landscaping needs, from landscape design, installation and maintenance. Get in touch with us today for a free quote.