I love spring-blooming bulbs. These first pops of garden color offer a much-needed glimpse of hope after what always seems like the longest winter ever. The problem is you have to plant them in the fall. And by fall, most of us are ready to be done.
Done with mowing and weeding, watering and deadheading. And don’t get me started on raking and mulching and dividing. Planting bulbs is just another chore to add to an oversized autumn to-do list.
Who wants to add more work? Nobody. Who wants a fabulous looking garden come spring? Well, just about everybody. Even me.
That’s why I’ve gotten into minor bulbs. Despite their underwhelming name, these little gems pack a colorful punch. From sassy purple scilla to brightly red and yellow species tulips, minor bulbs are an easy way to add zing in spring. Early spring, that is. The time we need it most.
Some minor bulbs — like the aptly named snowdrops and snow crocuses — have been known to push their way up through the last of the snow. Others come up just as the last of the snow is slowly departing.
And these little bloomers have staying power. Unlike showy tulips, which fade year after year until they’re seen no more, minor bulbs not only continue to bloom beautifully, they multiply. (And, no, you don’t need to divide them.)
Other things to love about minor bulbs? The bulbs themselves are teeny, the size of a penny, which makes them easy to plant. The rule of thumb about spring-blooming bulbs is the bigger the bulb, the deeper they need to be planted.
Tulips need a full 6 to 8 inches. But scilla, glory-of-the-snow and grape hyacinths? They can go just 3 to 4 inches below the soil. (Don’t forget: Pointy side up.)
Minor bulbs can be planted through October. While tulips can be planted even later, you’re taking your chances with daffodils and hyacinths. Because minor bulbs really are minor in size, plant them by the handful: in the front of border beds, on top of other bulbs, under trees or right in the lawn (it’s called naturalizing). After you’re done, water as you would any bulb. And wait. Maybe winter won’t feel as long now that you’ve got a colorful way to welcome spring.