Daffodils are a common early bloomer.
Technically, daffodils are one type of narcissus, but daffodil is the Southern colloquialism for all narcissi, so I’ll stick with that. They are cheery, easy to grow and naturalize easily, and while they don’t exactly pop through the snow in Georgia, they are a harbinger of spring. If you’ve never been, visit the UGA State Botanical Gardens when they are in bloom. Thousands of daffodils line the entry drive and the site of them makes you want to pull out the picnic basket and checkered cloth and reenact some idyllic scene from old movie, frolicking the day away. Because daffodils are so well-loved, many gardeners never explore bulbs further. Here are a few to consider planting this fall.
Tulips are an obvious next step. Available in many a variety of colors and shapes, this flower has an ancient history spanning many cultures, including the infamous Dutch tulip mania. While tulips are available in every shade imaginable, simple to double blossoms and the ruffled parrot bulbs, there is one flaw. They act more as an annual in Georgia. You may have some that if left make it an additional year or so, but they do not have the hardiness of other bulbs.
Allium blooms in blue, purple, and white globes positioned atop tall stems. They are suggestive of lollipops, but the shape also brings to mind formal topiaries, allowing it to read as a whimsical or formal depending on the context. Cousins of onions and garlic, some of these are small plants, but giant varieties have 8-inch blooms on 5-foot stalks, making alliums a garden statement piece.
Leucojum, more commonly called snowflake or snowdrop, is an old-timey pass-a-long plant that you can still see at old home places. It isn’t showy, but simple and sweet, with small bell-shaped flowers that droop delicately towards the ground. A perfect choice for a cottage garden feel, this plant deserves a white picket fence and worn-in front porch.
Amaryllis reminds me of my grandmother’s garden. These flowers are old-fashioned in the garden world, but I think they are due for a comeback. Because they are easy to force indoors for blooms on theme for a red Christmas, I feel gardeners have relegated them to the holiday season, but there are many varieties well suited for the garden. Consider adding this audaciously red blossom to your landscape.
Siberian Squill and Spanish bluebells are diminutive but vivacious plants that bring a pop of blue. Squill blooms at a mere 4 inches and bluebells at 8 inches, but the effect en masse is breathtaking. They are both excellent choices for groundcovers, and work well in spots that are shaded in summer, but with leaves still emerging from trees in early spring when the bulbs bloom and leaf out, get enough light to thrive.
For more information on planting bulbs, refer to UGA Extension Bulletin 918, “Flowering Bulbs for Georgia Gardens.” To find UGA Extension publications online, go to extension.uga.edu/publications.