07 October 2009

"diverse others"

That’s the term the folks over at Old House Gardens use for all the spring-blooming bulbs that aren’t crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips. Little bulbs, mostly. The ones that grow under shrubs and venture out into the lawn. Mr. Robinson, the gentleman who got me excited about gardening in the first place, grew snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) under the mock orange, lilac, and spirea that surrounded his side porch. Their coming into bloom was always a great relief to me: Seeing them meant I wouldn't have to shovel his driveway for too much longer!

My mom and dad took Mr. Robinson's lead and planted snowdrops of their own under the yews in front their house in Schenectady. And our very first autumn at Pleasant Hill I planted some by the front porch, in memory of my old gardening friend. Snowdrops are remarkably prolific little guys; last year I spied a few on the slope behind the house, and I don't recall planting any there. Squirrels? Maybe I moved a few when I transplanted some other perennials? Who knows? But I love them.

So now it's time to expand the repertoire a bit, so to speak. Last year I bought and planted about 20 Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) after I read the following at Old House Gardens: "Vast pools of this true blue wildling decorate many old neighborhoods in very early spring, spreading without care under shrubs and into the lawn in light shade. Grown in America by 1830, its heyday was the early 1900s when one writer recommended planting 'hundreds and thousands in every garden.'" Isn't that great? Twenty is not the same as "hundreds and thousands," but one has to start someplace. I planted mine on the margins of the peony bed, and I hope they'll begin to venture forth into the lawn this year.

Last weekend I stopped at a nursery in Glens Falls and bought 25 more (for a grand total of 45, almost halfway to 100!), which I planted directly in the lawn under one of our crabapple trees. I used a shovel to cut and lift a circle of turf off the lawn, popped the bulbs underneath, and replaced the turf. We'll be able to see these from the kitchen window come spring.

And then last night I placed my very first order with Brent and Becky's Bulbs. I will be planting these guys in the lawn, in the woods, and in the garden.
  • 10 Allium moly "Jeannine": Society garlic. Planting it is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity, something we can all use, eh? I ordered some from McClure & Zimmerman a few years ago, but what they sent was not what I ordered, so I am hopeful I'll get it right this time.
  • 10 Allium sphaerocephalon: Drumstick allium. Purple, oval blossoms in midsummer. We really enjoyed the blooms on our garlic chives this year, and the large allium that came up on its own near the lilacs this past spring whetted my appetite for more alliums, please. I'm not ready yet to spend $9.00 and up on a giant allium, however, so these sweet little bulbs will be plenty fine for right now.
  • 10 Bellevalia pycnantha: I've never seen this before, a flower that looks a lot like (and used to be the same genus as) grape hyacinth; however, this one is taller (up to 12" apparently) and supposedly darker than the grape hyacinths I'm used to.
  • 10 Ornithogalum nutans: Star of Bethlehem or silver bells. I've seen this one before and have wanted to try it. Now's the time.
  • 10 Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica: Another small bulb suitable for what Brent and Becky call "lawn art." I like it!
  • 10 Scilla bifolia "Rosea": Another squill, this one a very light pink.


  1. At my last house, i had a lawn that turned "blue". I loved it so much I am trying the same thing at my present house. Last year I planted 50 scilla, they looked so tiny by themselves. This year I purchased 100 more, I'll see what that looks like this spring.

  2. THAT'S what *I* want to do! There's a gorgeous botanic garden here in NYC called Wave Hill with a hillside blanketed with squill every spring. Looks amazing. But tell me, did the ripening foliage get in the way of mowing later on, or does it go away before the first mowing? That's my big question...

  3. As you know it flowers quite early, I find after it flowers, the leaves and the stems get fairly droopy and it almost lies on the grass. It has mostly died back before you start cutting the grass.