Early bloomer toughs out the winter

While the bulk of the snow has melted, the leftover piles that can be seen here and there are a reminder of the blizzard-like snowstorm we had. Though it was not nearly as intense as the back-to-back storms folks north of us got, ours turned out to be quite a big deal, too. Now, as the yard is trying to recover from a colder-than-usual winter and excess moisture, I couldn’t contain my delight on a recent day when I spotted, almost out of the blue, a cluster of crocus flowers, flaunting their bright, mustard-yellow petals!

Crocuses, without doubt, are very cheery plants – and carefree, too, giving much more than they ask for. I have, to my amusement, found blooming clumps of crocuses in all sorts of unlikely places in the garden where some bulbs perhaps hitchhiked with soil, weeds, mulch or something like that. Because of their small size, crocuses look lovely in rock gardens or among ground covers. Once established, they multiply quickly and can easily be naturalized to dig and plant elsewhere or to share with others.

Traditionally, crocuses – along with other early spring-bloomers, such as snowdrops, dwarf beardless irises and, of course, the robins – are thought of as one of the harbingers of spring, prompting in us a sigh of relief that winter will indeed go away soon. Grown from corms in fall, most crocuses have grass-like foliage that, depending on the weather, begins to make its appearance above the ground as early as January. The flowers, ranging in color from yellow to purple to bicolor, are borne on short stalks, and thus seem to be rising directly above the soil. Though not particularly picky, crocuses do prefer a well-drained soil, and they look attractive when planted in masses.

Bulbs, in general, provide a big long-term return for a relatively small investment, and, thinking ahead, soon it will be time to make this investment toward the summer-flowering bulbs. With the ample selections available at local garden centers, along with a good book as a resource, gardeners should have no problem selecting what their hearts desire. The problem, on the contrary, might be what not to buy!

Gita’s Tip of the Month: Use care while clearing debris or removing weeds around dormant perennials, as young, new growth might already be trying to poke through the soil.

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