aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)
bulbs, tubers and corms other than tulips, daffodils and hyacinths
are considered to belong to the group known as minor bulbs.
The phrase refers to their smaller size compared to the larger
classics. However, the term minor seems unfair. Although they
produce proportionally smaller plants and flowers, there is
nothing minor about them in terms of their qualities and their
contribution to the spring garden.
earliest bloomer, the lovely winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis),
is a master of packing a lot of interest and beauty into a tiny
tuber. Aconites waste no time — their cup-shaped, golden,
honey-scented blooms open before the decorative foliage emerges.
Next comes a ring of leaves that looks like an elegant green
collar beneath the flower. Similar leaves appear at the base
of the plant. Even the aconites' seedpods are ornamental. Don't
be deceived by the beauty of aconites, since, like other members
of the buttercup family, they are poisonous. Soaking the tubers
overnight before planting will give them a good start. Remember,
tubers are tricky, so if you aren't sure which end is up, plant
them sideways. Don't worry, the shoots will find their way to
may be still blooming when snowdrops (Galanthus spp.)
arrive. Just as their name implies, their tiny, drooping flowers
look like drops of snow. They are pure white with distinctive
green markings that look like an inverted V. The slightly
fragrant flowers are carried gracefully above the gray-green,
grassy leaves. Patience is required when growing snowdrops,
since they are slow to establish. Be careful, snowdrop bulbs
are mildly toxic and their foliage may irritate sensitive
skin. Wear your gardening gloves when handling them.
comes a plant with the wonderful common name, glory-of-the-snow
(Chionodoxa spp.). As soon as their green, grass-like
leaves appear, they burst into sprays of tiny, star-shaped
flowers. The stems carry a dozen or so upward-facing blooms.
Unlike other small bulbs, their six-petalled flowers come
in a wide range of colors such as shades of blue, lavender,
pink and white, depending on the species or cultivar.
The striped scillas (Puschkinia scilloides) follow
glory-of-the-snow. Their bell-shaped flowers are pale bluish-white
with a thin, dark-blue stripe down the center. The slightly
fragrant blossoms come densely packed on erect stems.