Choose locations to plant fall bulbs now

– Posted in: Garden chores, Plant info, Snowdrops, What's up/blooming

In January, the snowdrops in the Secret Garden looked like this:

Snowdrops emerging in January

Snowdrops in the Secret Garden January 2010

This Sunday just passed–March 7th–those same snowdrops looked like this:
Snowdrops buried in early March

Those same snowdrops in early March

Such are the vagaries of an upstate New York winter. Since then, the temperatures have been mild and the sunshine brilliant, and the snow is receding. This, my fellow cold climate gardeners, is the best time to decide where to plant your earliest spring bulbs. Look around, no, better yet–grab your camera, and record the places in your garden where the snow melts first.
Snow melting around tree stump

Snow melts first around the base of trees, even stumps

Snow melting near crabapple

The snow melts in damp areas first, though bulbs for this site must tolerate soggy soil.

Snow around lilac shrub

The south-facing areas amongst shrubs are another good place for the earliest bulbs

Corner of the house where snow is melting

Plant some early bulbs by a corner of the house that traps heat.

Snow melting near pavement

South-facing areas near pavement are the best of all. Can you see the snowdrops?

Here I followed my own advice, and in a previous year planted some Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ in an area that always melts first. I chose this particular snowdrop because it is both large and early. As a matter of fact, a few of them bloomed today, though I didn’t manage to get a picture.

Label Your Images

As you may have noticed, these images don’t look like much. If you don’t rename your images, tag them, write captions for them, or whatever your photo managing program permits, you will look at them in July and wonder, “What was I thinking? Why did I take a bunch of photos of dirty, tired snow?” Put them in a folder labeled Plant Bulbs Here and make a note in your calendar to order them in June, when there are discounts for early online orders.

Which Bulbs Are the Earliest?

Of the commonly available snowdrops, Galanthus elwesii is the earliest. Winter aconites (Eranthis spp.) are reputedly equally as early, though they have not been so for me. I am not sure if they are coming back this year. When they like your garden, they really take off. The small species crocus bloom soon after the snowdrops for me. Two to three weeks after the very first blooms, the larger Dutch crocus, the Siberian squills, and the glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa) are all blooming. By then it’s a whole different ball game.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Chris Maciel March 24, 2010, 10:38 pm

You’re absolutely right about making plans now for next year. I look out at my
bare mulch and wonder why I don’t have more dwarf daffodils, which I would love right about now.
Also why no crocus…I inherited about 6 crocus and have yet to buy more, and I love them! I look out the kitchen window and see a purple one way on the other side of the driveway, must have been planted by a squirrel.
I’m making a note right now.
The crocus I did buy is the ‘Cream Beauty’; you have to plant them in hidden corners to keep the squirrels away.
Another bulb to add, for later on is the Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum), looks much like a Snowdrop, but larger, and more complicated flower.
Great list.

Kathy Purdy March 25, 2010, 8:32 am

I love ‘Cream Beauty,’ too. Crocus tomassianus is supposed to be less tasty to squirrels. I have more problems with voles. Have you seen my post on the Crocus Bank?

commonweeder March 15, 2010, 7:54 am

This is a great idea. During a thaw in January I noticed how fast the snow melted right in front of the house and determined to plant a Spring Vegetable garden there, on one side of the front ‘walk’. But I think I will now plant snowdrops on the other side of the walk . I have a few snowdrops in the ‘orchard’ but it is not a place I go to much so early in the year.
.-= commonweeder´s last blog ..Femivore? =-.

Yvonne @ Country Gardener March 14, 2010, 8:44 pm

This is great advice. I’m always amazed by the early bulbs: one day, there’s nothing, practically the next day, snowdrops, then crocuses in bloom. Our first snowdrops are in flower now. Can’t wait for mud season to be over. Have to remind myself to be patient!

rthoseweeds March 14, 2010, 11:16 am

Really good advice. I have tons of pics from last winter/spring (after the snow melted) but I never really thought that much about which places would be best for early bulbs. Snowed last night here in SLC. Will definately be trying this.
.-= rthoseweeds´s last blog ..Mother nature as the landscaper =-.

Dirty Girl Gardening March 13, 2010, 4:45 pm

The mix of leaves, moss and fresh bulbs popping up is lovely…

Eileen March 13, 2010, 2:46 pm

I had one little patch of snow left yesterday. The rain all day today has washed it away!


Layanee March 12, 2010, 4:54 pm

Good advice. I was noticing how the snow had melted around the big rocks in the shrub border. I will have to tuck some beauties there.
.-= Layanee´s last blog ..One year ago…. =-.

MNGarden March 12, 2010, 3:37 pm

I like tracking your snow melt with a camera. I’ll have to use that idea for shade.
.-= MNGarden´s last blog ..Anemone coronaria ‘Harmony Blue’ =-.

Phill March 12, 2010, 10:44 am

Happy to have found you! Awesome! Our snow is *just* going now over here near Saranac Lake. Thanks for the tip on the bulbs – I’ll be watching. Perfect timing!
.-= Phill´s last blog ..Soup in the Key of B-flat =-.

RocLibrarian March 11, 2010, 8:40 pm

Thanks for the fantastic tip! I’m going to do this tomorrow.

Laura W March 11, 2010, 4:40 pm

And I thought I was ahead of the game last season by making my bulbs-to-plant notes when everything was blooming. What a smart technique! Thanks for sharing.

Christine B. March 11, 2010, 3:10 pm

Great advice. Now if I can only get the snow to cooperate and start melting….

Christine in Alaska

Darla March 11, 2010, 11:45 am

That new blog link is incorrect..
.-= Darla´s last blog ..NEW BLOG!! =-.

Darla March 11, 2010, 11:43 am

We don’t get snow. I love learning how ya’ll figure this stuff out though…I always shake my head and smile…
.-= Darla´s last blog ..NEW BLOG!! =-.

Ilona March 11, 2010, 10:30 am

Hi Kathy! Doesn’t the melting snow and warmer temperatures just make everything feel better?!
🙂 My snowdrops are blooming now too, and I have residual snow, but not much. Ponding and mud has begun… but I’m too cheerful to pay attention to that yet.

Most of good gardening practice seems to be in “preparation”. Love your step by step guidance.
.-= Ilona´s last blog ..Five Container Tips and Five Container Recipes =-.

Melanie Watts March 11, 2010, 10:27 am

I agree planting the earliest bulbs in the spots where the snow melts first. The only ground I can see right now is on my driveway. It’s going to be a few weeks.
.-= Melanie Watts´s last blog ..Do Hardiness Zones Really Matter? =-.

boodely March 11, 2010, 10:16 am

Great advice, I’m off to get my camera.
.-= boodely´s last blog ..opossum! =-.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter March 10, 2010, 11:06 pm

I just figured this out this year. I better take photos before I forget, as most of the snow here is gone.
My experience with Eranthis is the same as yours, they bloom much later than Galanthus elwesii.
.-= Mr. McGregor’s Daughter´s last blog ..Gardener Snake (Wordless Wednesday) =-.

Dee/ March 10, 2010, 10:16 pm

Can’t wait to see those snowdrops in their fully glory. Mine will take awhile to multiply I think. Glad you’re getting snowmelt.~~Dee
.-= Dee/´s last blog ..Read any good books lately? =-.