Don't you love it when snowdrops, those shy, sweetly nodding little bulbs, begin to bloom? It means that in the depths of winter, the spring processional has begun. Starting in January, one kind of bulb after another pokes up through winter-crusted ground to unfurl leaves, stems, and finally flowers.
Bulbs are so inauspicious-looking when planted, really nothing more than knuckly lumps of potential, yet they're the bridge from winter wet and snow to summer sunshine - a bridge that reassures us that we'll cross over ourselves into a fresh, new gardening season.
But even earlier than the heralding snowdrops, you can count on an equally sweet looking and really more dependable flower to brighten winter days. As I cleared away faded lily stems and the collapsed muck of ligularia on our spectacularly warm New Year's Day, I found tiny Cyclamen coum blooming amid the dead leaves and debris. Shorter than snowdrops and as delicate-looking, they weather the worst of winter to bloom as one year ends and the next begins. Their heart-shaped, marbled leaves are as showy as the little pink and white flowers. Pure, snowy white cyclamen like the one below are my favorite, for they look so clean and promising flowering away in my still-very-messy winter garden...Cyclamen have the tidy habit of spreading slowly yet persistently to colonize the ground beneath trees and shrubs, then obligingly fade away during the summer so showier flowers can take their place.
These little beauties were gifts from Richie Steffen at the Miller Botanical Garden, so they're probably some special kind of cyclamen - I've long since forgotten their cultivar name, which doesn't mean I appreciate their brave flowering any less....Richie - if you can tell us which these are, we'd appreciate it....