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Scott’s first-grade teacher Mrs. Trickett introduced him to these curious little woodland wildflowers that have been grown in gardens since colonial days. Decades later he planted a few in a shady spot in his garden where they’ve multiplied happily. Over finely-cut, soft green leaves, their flowers dangle like old-fashioned Dutch pantaloons, charming all who see them. Formerly Dielytra and Corydalis, 7-10”, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), nursery-grown for us in Tennessee. Chart and care.
If these extra-early cups of sunshine have failed you, try ours! They’re wax-dipped so they won’t dry out and die before you plant them. Blooming even earlier than snowdrops, they multiply eagerly in light shade (their seeds are spread by ants) and are so animal-proof that the Elizabethans called them Little Yellow Woolfes-bain. 3-5”, zones 5a-7b(8bWC), from Holland. Chart, care, and learn more.
One of our greatest treasures, this is the original, blissfully fragrant, wild white freesia that naturalizes happily in Mediterranean climates with mild, dry summers. It’s also “entirely at home in the South, returning faithfully,” says Scott Ogden in Garden Bulbs for the South, so expert gardeners may want to try it there, too. Smaller than modern forms, 6-12”, zones 8a only (8a-10bWC), grown for us in California. Chart and care.
One of our perennial bestsellers, this odd little bulb has nodding flowers of maroon and dusky rose (or occasionally white), and each is checkered! Grown since colonial days, it prefers light shade and cool, moist sites. Our bulbs are wax-dipped to preserve their vitality. We forgot to plant some until February one year and they still bloomed! Aka guinea-hen flower, 10-12”, zones 4a-7b(8bWC), from Holland. Chart and care.
If you like traditional snowdrops (and who doesn’t?), you’ll love G. elwesii. Don’t let the “giant” in its name put you off. It simply looks like an especially robust, well-grown G. nivalis and blooms even earlier. Animal-proof, 6-8”, more heat-tolerant than G. nivalis, zones 5a-8a(9aWC), from Holland. Chart and care.
“With unusually long petals that give it the look of a “pear-shaped pearl,” to quote bulb-connoisseur E.A. Bowles, this is one of the oldest named snowdrops – and still enormously popular. Naomi Slade in The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops calls it “bold, elegant, and one of my favorites,” as well as “an excellent choice for beginners” because it “grows like a weed.” It’s named for James Atkins of Gloucestershire who reportedly obtained it from the Kingdom of Naples. 6-8”, zones 4b-7b(9bWC), from Holland. Chart and care.
Voted best of all by experts at an RHS conference in 2004, ‘S. Arnott’ was sent by Scotsman Sam Arnott to collector Henry Elwes sometime before 1922. It’s a “tall, handsome, well-proportioned chap with attractively rounded blooms,” writes Naomi Slade in The Plant Lovers Guide to Snowdrops. It’s “very easy to grow” and “increases reliably,” and its “sweet strong scent” makes it “a great cut flower.” Aka ‘Sam Arnott’, 8-10”, zones 4b-7b(9bWC), from Holland. Chart and care.
Expensive but worth it, this is NOT the puny, cheap impostor you’ll get virtually everywhere else, but Southern-grown corms of the authentic, deep magenta heirloom that’s winter hardy to zone 6 and multiplies happily year after year. A wild, perennial glad, it blooms with graceful, orchid-like flowers in earliest summer as it has since colonial days. Bill Welch of Texas A&M calls it “a delightful plant often found in old cottage gardens,” Christopher Lloyd planted it lavishly at Great Dixter, and our customers rave about it! Aka G. communis var. byzantinus ‘Cruentus’, 24-36”, zones 6a-9b(11WC), from Louisiana and Texas. Learn more. Chart and care.
As easy to grow as the much more common blue forms, the white Spanish bluebell has been lighting up shady gardens for hundreds of years. In 1927 landscape architect Stephen Child recommended it for stylish white perennial borders, noting that it was “very attractive” in the Dutch garden at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Aka wood hyacinth, squill, late-spring blooming, 15-18”, zones 5a-8b(10bWC), from Holland. Chart and care.
Rugged and fool-proof, this easy classic thrives virtually everywhere. “The stately Spanish bluebell is found in all old Southern gardens,” Elizabeth Lawrence wrote, and it’s hardy north to zone 5, too (or even 3, some say!). ‘Excelsior’ dates back to 1906 and is the most vigorous and floriferous form. Aka wood hyacinth, squill, late spring blooming, 15-18”, zones 5a-8b(10bWC), from Holland. Chart and care.