My Christmas cactus is flowering for the second time — that’s the kind of winter it has been! I love my Christmas cactus, but in April, it’s the springtime flowers I’m looking for.
I’m looking forward to seeing daffodils and tulips, of course, but they aren’t the only springtime flowering bulbs. Crocus, grape hyacinth, squill, and hyacinth all thrive in our climate, but as the more subdued of our springtime flowering bulbs, they tend to be overlooked. Big mistake. After a winter like this, spring needs to be celebrated to the max. More is better.
With the exception of hyacinth, these are small plants, a mere 15 to 20 centimetres in height.
Think drifts, swaths, fillers when planting them. All require well-drained soil, and will not tolerate soggy conditions.
The native crocus (Pulsatilla patens) is indeed the first flower of spring, and can easily be missed if you aren’t paying attention. Quiet on entry, small in size, this plant is big on guts. If you’re going to start flowering before the snow goes, you better come prepared. It arrives wearing a jacket of fine hair to keep it warm.
The introduced crocuses (Crocus spp.) flower a bit later, and tend to be a bit bigger. They come in a variety of purples and whites, and don’t have the furry jacket. Put them in a spot that receives the spring’s warm sun, but with some midday protection from summer’s hot sun.
Grape hyacinth (Muscari spp.) is a busy and prolific little plant. Its flower looks like a miniature cluster of grapes, and offers both texture and abundance to the springtime garden. It does well in sun, and reasonably well in partial shade. As it flowers mid-spring, it’s a great addition to newly awakening patches of hosta or fiddleheads. This plant will spread, so make sure you love it before you plant it.
Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica) is one of the most exuberant of the springtime flowers. Its tiny five-petalled blue or white flower positively chirps cheer. This is also a spreader, so make sure you love it before you plant it. It likes sun, or partial shade.
Hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis) are the tallest of this group, 20 to 30 centimetres. They are very ornate with spikes of typically blue, purple, pink, or white flowers. Put them in full sun. A small cluster of hyacinths will give plenty of colour, but if you love them, more is better.
Carla Keast has a master’s degree in landscape architecture and is a Winnipeg-based freelance landscape designer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.