Among the other small bulbs that go in by Thanksgiving (to bloom in early spring) are the various wild tulips.
My favorite is the lady tulip, Tulipa clusiana, with almond-shaped flowers on slender stems 9 inches or a foot high, the petals alternating cherry and gray-white. Inside, there is a purple blotch at the center. This tulip is resistant to rots and diseases and will live for years in the garden without any attention at all.
It even spreads about a little. It spreads underground, and it also seeds itself. Its leaves are slender, so that when they die down they are barely noticeable.
Another good wild one is the small T. chrysantha, which is variable as you find it in commerce, very like the lady tulip except it alternates deep buff yellow and cherry-cinnamon.
There are many others, some of them flowering at no more than three inches. They vary in flower shape, too, but the color range is fairly limited, off-white, yellow and bronze. The somewhat larger one, called Pulchella violacea, however, is a gorgeous rich raspberry-wine.
As they do not cost much, it is worthwhile to try a variety of kinds, even one or two bulbs, just to see which ones you like best.
I have several clumps of these wild tulips at the side of a raised pool, where subsequent to their planting the hound chose to stand while drinking among the water lilies. As her paws are the size of small saucers, I thought well that's the end of the tulips, but it hasn't been. They come up every spring, flower and die down before the mutt has time to do them in forever.
Equally wonderful are the small daffodils. In garden centers or bulb shops look for pictures of the little ones, they are usually very good likenesses. Some of the wild small ones don't bloom very freely and not every year, either.
The hoop-petticoat daffodil (Narcissus bulbocodium) can behave like a dream in the garden, or like a bad dream. It often blooms only the first year, then sends up grass. Once I had a nice patch of it, about 200 flowers in the clump, but I have planted it at various times since then without any luck. Where it did so well, in a climate similar to Washington's, I was trying a little experiment. The patch was about four feet long and two feet wide on a slight slope near a driveway. First I planted a layer of lady tulips, then a layer of hoop-petticoat daffodils, then a layer of Crocus chrysanthus. The bulbs, in other words, were on top of each other. Worked like a dream for years and years.
A smallish daffodil I like is called 'Jack Snipe,' which I usually call 'Jack Sprat' for some reason. It is a white and yellow nodding flower, early in the daffodil season. It is only about 6 inches high, and unlike many small daffodils it increases nicely.
I have two clumps of small trumpet daffodils, 'Little Gem' and 'Little Beauty.' They bloomed nicely for two or three or maybe even five years, then sent up leaves without flowers. Ha, I said, they need dividing, and for several years I meant to do that but of course never got round to it. Last year they bloomed nicely again. It is always gratifying to see sloth rewarded.
It so rarely is. Recently I pollinated one of the tropical water lilies and in due time got a seed pod. I am fairly good at getting these, as I know that the stem dives towards the bottom, once the flower is past, but if seeds have formed, it will rise to (or near) the surface and you have one or two days to collect it, before the seeds are scattered into the water.
Well, I got the pod and let it ripen its last day or so in a glass of water, and right on schedule the seeds were dispersed. It takes them a day or so to sink to the bottom of the glass, at which time you drain the water off, dry the seeds and store them in a little paper envelope till next spring, when you plant them.
Before I got round to this last operation, however, they started sprouting in the glass of water. It is extremely difficult to grow tiny water lilies through the fall, indoors, as daylight fades day by day. So sloth does not always -- almost never, in gardening -- pay.wms