Early spring charmers: Chionodoxa

This year, I’m enjoying Chionodoxas for the first time.


These are charming and relatively-unknown “minor” garden bulbs, closely related to Scillas (squills). They flower in shades of pink, blue, and white, at the same time as late crocus and early daffodils. Native to Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean, they cope well with cold as long as the soil is well-drained, and they sleep well through dry summer conditions. They don’t care for areas that remain damp; if that word describes your garden well, choose Fritillarias instead.

The foliage will yellow in early summer, at which point it can be removed. Never remove (or braid!) bulb foliage before it has yellowed completely: If it is still green, the plant is still photosynthesizing and gathering strength for next year. If you don’t like the look of yellowing foliage, plant the bulbs near something that will leaf out and hide the dying foliage: hostas and ferns are good candidates in shady locations, and most summer- or fall-blooming perennials will do the job in sunny locations. If you have time to braid foliage, you should be pulling weeds instead.

There are several species of Chionodoxa, and I have no idea which one mine is. Last fall I was late in getting my bulb orders organized and I found these instead at the garden center in one of those lazily-labeled and poorly documented packages. But this fall, now that I’m better acquainted with these plants’ dispositions, I’ll add to my collection from sources that offer better information.

Chionodoxas are said to naturalize well from bulb offsets. I certainly hope so.

Chionodoxa blossom


Before the freeze

It’s going to get really cold tonight (for here), and possibly snow a bit, though not enough for the kids to miss school (hurrah!). The schools often cancel classes at the slightest suggestion of snow, so I’m proud of them for holding off. For now.

A bag of garlic sits on my kitchen counter, patiently waiting for me to plant it.   Unfortunately, I don’t have ground prepared properly for it, and life, as it so often does, reprioritized things for me so that I never got the containers I planned to use to grow it.  I am interested in companion planting and in mixing ornamentals and vegetables in the same garden beds, though, so I ran out as it began to almost-sleet to pop in some of the garlic by Rosa ‘Sophy’s Rose.’ Five cloves, six inches apart, right in front of the shrub. I  write this to help me remember they are there, because in spring I expect their greenery to be mixed in with lots of other green bits. Already I realize that the garlic is likely mixed in with the pale pink Chionodoxas I planted but forgot to mark.

I planted one fat clove in a crowded container with Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ before realizing there wasn’t room for more. Roses are said to combine well with alliums and their relatives (onions, garlic, and chives): gardening folklore, if not science, advises that alliums repel borers, aphids, moles, and black spot.  Half a dozen cloves went into the container with the snap peas, and a dozen cloves in with the mixed herbs and sorrel. I still have half a head to go. Maybe this is not the time to order shallots.