SPACE IS more or less priceless in a town garden, but I never saw a place too small for the early spring bulbs.
This year they were late, my first crocuses not blooming until early March, but by the 10th they were in full bloom, along with the snowdrops and my lone winter aconite.
I should say that of 100 aconites only one now exists. They are very hard to establish sometimes, mainly because the bulbs or roots that you plant in the fall are usually dried out when you get them.
On the other hand, sometimes every one will grow. Eventually they seed themselves about, if happy.
All these early spring buls are planted in September and October, and I mention their blooming now to inspire anyone who does not have them to make a great point of doing something about it this fall.
Our native skunk cabbage is admired by many, while others consider it too rank, both in scent and coarseness, to be worthy of a garden.
I had an aunt who had a great pottery basin of skunk cabbages every March in her apartment on California Street. She knew a swampy place where they grew by the million. I never noticed any offensive smell to them.
But there is another vaguely similar and related skunk cabbage from the western part of America, called Lysichitum americanum . It too is coarse, with leaves that I am told can get three or four feet long, and I suppose it looks weedy most of the year.
But in March it pushes a crown through soggy earth (it admires mud) and sends up ivory-primrose flowers maybe 8 inches long, set on short stakes near the ground. It looks rather like a calla, only the spathe curves in instead of flaring out.
Doubtless people grow it, but I have never seen it in a garden. Mine is a young plant, which I got from England where it is popular.
Here it is mid-march and it is just pushing through. I can tell from the size of the emerging growing tip that it is still probably two years away from flowering.
I imagine that once I get it going it will prove a tiresome weed. So many things are, that we lay elaborate schemes to acquire.
Some gardeners can be relied on to become greedy if they see anything with vast leaves or a generally tropical look to them, and I am cautious recommending my favorites since other gardeners run more to portulaca and neat small things.
The primroses (polyanthus) died completely away in the recent outrageous snow, but now have tufts of green leaves. One day, two or three weeks from now, I will be astonished to see some flowers on them. They always bloom before I quite expect them. I started out with some very small plants a friend was discarding, and now from those fragile creatures I have some fat clumps.
They like half-sun and a rich soil. They have no objection to rotted manure, which seems odd for anything at the edge of woodland.
The thing about them to notice is that they like to be dug up immediately after flowering and pulled gently apart and replanted in good soil. This operation, needless to say, occurs just when 419 other thngs need to be done. The temptation is to say let them work out their ownsalvation, but if they go too long without dividing, they die out.
Some violets are bad that way, too, though the Confederate violet is no problem since it sows itself all over the place. It is the white or whitish one with blue-gray lines on the petals. It has no scent. I cannot think why I do not have it (I never planted it, for one reason) since it is showy and will grow in out of the way places in compacted soil.
The bleeding heart I like best is the plain Dicentra formosa , which grows knee-high or a bit more and makes a clump the size of a bushel basket.
It is very soundly perennial and comes back year after year forever, I suppose. Its foliage dies away in midsummer and is not seen again till the following March.
Oriental poppies have short green leaves above ground, looking a bit like a small fern or cotula and giving no hint of the lusty weediness to come, nor of the flamboyant large flowers of May.
The recent snow discouraged the Carolina jasmine, but it may as well know I expect it to bloom in April anyway. It can be an exasperating vine until it gets well established, which may be, in my case, forever in the future. Yet I know it will do here, once it gets going.
I still do not have even the earliest daffodil. You would think it was not asking too much. Still, I suppose we are lucky to be alive, after three such winters as we have had.