Sure enough, there they were: the early, humble, and sweet snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis. Small numbers of these were planted one fall, maybe twelve years or so ago at the sidewalk edge of a shady bed under the ash tree on the west side of the property. Each year, the cheerful little clusters have gotten a bit larger. Now the eight groups here (as well as one in the north oak bed and one in the south fern bed) are flourishing.
Occasionally, the snowdrops have started blooming in February, even amid a bit of remaining snow. But this year they waited for the warmer temps (fifties) and the rains. As you can see, they have pushed up among the fallen leaves. We don't really remove leaves from flower beds because of their protection and their nutrition for the soil.
There are actually several different species of this genus, and I think the ones in the fern bed may be doubles, but, for the most part, they all look pretty much alike. Once they've finished up, there's no sign of them above ground.
In the interior of the bed with the snowdrops is another very early blooming bulb called winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis). These are not as easy to establish and the clumps are small even though they were planted a long time ago along with the snowdrops. They are a very bright, welcome yellow at a time when the sky is still quite often overcast and a bit gloomy.
On the north side of our house, all along the wired enclosure of our "cat patio," we have planted clumps of "tommies" (Crocus tommasinianus), a very early species crocus that is much-loved by English gardeners, who gave it this charming nickname. This photo was taken too late in the day and on too overcast a day to show up the lovely lavender and purple tones of this sweet little bulb to its best effect. If the crocus bees have already visited and the sun is low and the air is cool, the small cup-shaped flowers with the orange stamens will close up modestly.
Another nice thing about these tommies, besides their earliness and their charm, is the fact that they tend to "naturalize" fairly easily. That means that, given some decent soil and a bit of sun and freedom from the mower for a while after flowering so their foliage can "ripen," they will not only return to bloom again for many years, but spread into more and larger clusters, or what the Brits call "drifts." Of course, every time I've put a little bulb into the ground in the fall, I've dreamed of enormous drifts of spring bloom, looking just like the photos of the English countryside.
And here, in a "scree" bed (loose, gritty soil, compost, and gravel dressing) is the adonis (Adonis vernalis), which is quite an old plant by now, having been moved from a prior garden when we bought this place fifteen years ago. A few posts back, I displayed a photo of Frank the Supergardener's adonis. We may well have the only two gardens in our area to grow this adonis. It is difficult to propagate and spreads quite slowly, so this plant is not only a jewel of beauty and early cheer, it's something of a rarity.
The blooms aren't fully open yet in this photo. Although it is not a bulb, but a perennial plant, it disappears completely each spring, but the large stone on the left side and a lip fern that hasn't started to show green yet on the right side serve to mark the spot from year to year.
This is only the beginning, of course. I've already spotted a delightful purple Iris reticulata, a tiny iris that grows in the scree bed, that came into bloom just after these photos were taken. It's been raining since, but I will venture out with the camera once the skies clear and see what else the spring has brought. There is plenty of foliage for other early bulb irises, as well as for the dwarf bearded irises (rhizome rather than bulb) that come a bit later. I'm seeing species tulip foliage in those beds too and daffodil foliage all along the fence. The hellebores are getting ready for a show soon. So ... to be continued!