Spring has certainly taken its time in arriving this year hasn’t it? My raised beds in the vegetable garden were still too wet to work organic matter into as of mid-month, but on the positive side the soil under the lawn is no longer frozen! There’s no sign of my early spring bulbs but the snow piles have melted from the driveway!
If you’re desperate for any sign of spring potted bulbs of daffodils, hyacinths, iris and tulips can at least give us hope, along with cheery cold-hardy colour. These have been started by growers late last year and then held in cool temperatures in darkness, simulating conditions outdoors under the soil. The bulbs produce roots and then begin to push growth on top. When the tops are well on their way the bulbs are exposed to sunlight.
At this point they’re just beginning to form flower buds, perfect for purchasing and taking home to enjoy in your house, or now in the garden as these bulbs will ride out light frosts or even, dare I say, snow. You can plant them into your garden where they’ll bloom away happily for weeks, in advance of the bulbs you may have planted last fall in the ground.
If they are going outside it’s a good idea to acclimate them first by placing them in a cold, but protected area like a covered porch or unheated garage overnight until they are hardened off.
The most popular of the potted bulbs is Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete.’ They form a compact, vigorous and resilient plant which multiplies happily in good, well-drained soil, with perfectly miniature lemon-yellow replicas of the larger daffodil blooms.
Iris reticulata is another potted favourite worth growing. The blooms are violet-purple with a yellow blotch on each petal. These dwarf iris grow to just 10 cm. tall and they’ll form thick clumps over time which you can divide and transplant elsewhere. The blooms have a lovely primrose-like fragrance, inviting you to get down on your knees to draw in the scent of spring.
A container filled with potted bulbs and other cool weather warriors like the pansy, primroses, winter heather and the relatively new Senetti daisy, placed near an entrance door where you can enjoy it on a daily basis is a definite shot in the arm for the winter-weary gardener. Be sure to include some hyacinth bulbs in your combination; as their blooms unfurl you’ll be able to smell the fragrance each time you’re coming or going.
Flowers are always a great idea when visiting friends or family. Why not bring some potted bulbs this time? They can be planted out after they’ve been enjoyed in the house and they’ll be a reminder of your visit every spring when they emerge from the cold ground.
Spring may have arrived with a “late slip” this year. Let’s hope it can make up for it with good behaviour the rest of the way!

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