Plant Snowflakes This Fall for Glorious Spring Blooms
A refreshing temperature of 64 degrees this morning reminds me that autumn is but two weeks away. I love autumn weather because at last I can escape my air-conditioned prison and garden outside in comfort. What will Grumpy be doing? Planting spring bulbs. And while most of you know about daffodils, tulips, crocus, and hyacinths, one spring bulb doesn't get the widespread love it deserves – the snowflake.
Its official common name is "summer snowflake," which is terribly misleading as it blooms in February and March in my Alabama Zone 8A garden. I surmise that whoever dubbed it that lived in the northern reaches of its native Europe, where it's been cultivated since at least 1594. Its botanical name, Leucojum aestivum, distinguishes it from the slightly earlier blooming spring snowflake, Leucojum vernum. Summer snowflake is showier in bloom than its cousin and much more amenable to the mild winters we have in the South. Unlike many spring bulbs, it blooms reliably as far south as central Florida.
The plain vanilla summer snowflake sports 18-inch stems, each of which carry 3 to 5, one-inch, bell-shaped blooms with a green dot on the tip of each petal. Grumpy is not one to settle for plain vanilla. I insist on the stately heirloom selection, 'Gravetye Giant,' named for the estate of famous 19th century garden writer and designer, William Robinson. Shown above, it's taller, has larger blooms, and bears as many as nine flowers per stem. By spring bulb standards, it stays in bloom a long time – a couple of weeks – and does well in either full sun or light shade. Unlike daffodils, its stems don't lean towards the sun, but always stand straight up, so it's pretty viewed from any side. Like daffodils, it makes an excellent cut flower.
Because you trust Grumpy implicitly as you should, you naturally want some summer snowflakes for your own garden. If you can't find the bulbs locally, you can purchase them by mail. Trusted sources include White Flower Farm, Brent & Becky's Bulbs, and John Scheepers.
Plant your bulbs about 4 inches deep and apart into well-drained soil. They're excellent companions to early Narcissus and adapted to USDA Zones 3 to 9 (that's Canada to the Gulf Coast, people). Deer and rodents will not eat them, so these long-lived treasures increase in numbers over time. Should you be the sharing sort, bestow extras on friends and family – a tradition that's been going on for more than 400 years.