Warm Microclimates For Earlier Blooms: Garden Bloggers Bloom Day February 2012

– Posted in: Mud Season, What's up/blooming

Crocuses and snowdrops are blooming in my northern garden. In February! In any other year, it would be preposterous.


Crocus korolkowii 'Lucky Number' hit the jackpot for me. Earliest blooming crocus evah! (Photo taken 6 February 2012)

Yes, it’s been an unusually mild winter, but none of my other crocuses, including all of those on the Crocus Bank, have poked up even one pointy leaf. As you probably surmised from the title, these particular crocuses were planted in what I had discerned, through twenty years of observation, was the very first place snow would melt in the entire garden. It is a corner made by the intersection of a concrete pad with the south-facing porch, making a sheltered spot that faces both south and west, with the concrete providing a heat sink as well.

Special Flowers For Special Situations

Furthermore, I planted what Odyssey Bulbs called their earliest blooming crocus, Crocus korolkowii ‘Lucky Number’. I did have to think twice about it, because I have had major vole problems and these crocus are not exactly cheap. But what is the earliest bloom worth to you? Heh. I bought three, at two bucks a pop. (At this point, half of you are thinking, You only bought three? and the rest of you, like myself, are thinking, Two dollars for one measly crocus corm? Holy cow, she sure was desperate.) I surrounded them with grit, and they have multiplied, as you can see. And they are blooming in February!


This 'S. Arnott' snowdrop blooms earlier than the ones in the Secret Garden.

I bought a similarly stingy number of these ‘S. Arnott’ snowdrops from Odyssey Bulbs in 2004. But they thrived and multiplied, and I noticed that they were blooming earlier than the snowdrops in the Secret Garden, despite being on the north side of the house, the very last place snow melts in the garden. So when I decided to divide them, I planted some of them in this warm microclimate.

secret_garden_snowdrops Galanthus nivalis

The Secret Garden snowdrops are doing well for February, without benefit of warm microclimate. (Photo taken 6 February 2012)

Since the original clump of the Secret Garden snowdrops was a passalong, I don’t know for certain what they are, but I’m pretty sure they are Galanthus nivalis. According to this post, the earliest they have ever bloomed is February 25th. Quite possibly they will break their old record.

How Long Does It Take To Make A Garden?

These early-bloomers are all growing in my old garden, the one I moved away from last fall. I don’t know where the warmest and coldest spots are in this new garden yet. I don’t know much about it, except that you could make pottery from what passes for soil here. Looking at these photos makes me wonder if I will ever have as nice a garden as the old one. And then I have to remind myself that the former garden evolved over more than twenty years, and there were plenty of spots in it that I thought could stand improvement when I was there all the time. I think we had been living there for at least a couple of years before I figured out that a certain spot could become a Secret Garden, and a couple more before I actually did anything garden-ish in it, and really, it was a work in progress and hardly a garden at all, even when we left.

And then I think, twenty years.

Inspired by the words of Elizabeth Lawrence, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year,” Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from all over the world publish what is currently blooming in their gardens, and leave a link in Mr. Linky and the comments of May Dreams Gardens.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

Deborah Banks February 25, 2012, 6:49 pm

I know, it’s hard to leave an established garden. Gardeners don’t make the best nomads. After a couple years of adding organic stuff, your new beds will look much better.

Yael February 23, 2012, 3:15 pm


That is wonderful that you got crocuses so early. I don’t even think mine bloomed that early and I am in zone 8 (of course I don’t have that variety either.) It is so wonderful to start seeing spring blooms whenever they come. Forsythia starting to flick out a few blooms.


Gordon Rigg.blog February 22, 2012, 8:16 am

Crocus are lovely plants. read about one rare one the other day that sold for over £700 ! Some kind of mutant.

Les February 19, 2012, 9:20 am

I hope your lack of snowfall has not left things uninsulated from the cold, although if you haven’t had a lot of snow, you probably have not had a lot of cold.

Kathy Purdy February 19, 2012, 10:29 am

All I can tell you is that even when there is no snow, the ground is hard–frozen–under my feet at the new house. I presume it is that way at the old house, warm microclimates excepted. But you’re right, in terms of absolute temperature, it hasn’t been as cold. The temperatures we get after the plants are no longer dormant are much more critical.

Diana February 18, 2012, 10:28 pm

Fabulous crocuses. And wow — 20 years. That’s an accomplishment.

Phil (Smiling Gardener) February 18, 2012, 9:55 am

Sounds like it’s time to start piling on the compost organic matter to help soften that soil. I love the challenge of improving heavy clay!

Scott Weber February 17, 2012, 2:36 pm

OMG…I know how you feel about soil like that…I swear, every time I dig up part of the yard to make more garden space I swear it’s just like that…I’ve never seen clay so dense and wet!

Leslie February 17, 2012, 12:18 pm

I hope you look back in a few years and say ‘Wow…look what I did in only a few years!” You certainly have the gift and knowledge to do it. And remember…a garden is never done so try to enjoy the process.

Donalyn February 17, 2012, 11:33 am

Those are so pretty Kathy – not even the crocus over the septic tank are up here yet! What sort of grit do you use to deter the varmints?

Kathy Purdy February 17, 2012, 11:39 am

It is called Grani-Grit. The last time I got it was at the Binghamton Agway. The article that inspired me to get it (don’t remember, long ago) said to use chicken grit, but around here if you ask for chicken grit you get crushed oyster shells. I actually have used those as well and if I remember correctly, they also worked. The granite chips are more acid and the oyster shells are more alkaline, so I used the shells for plants that like good drainage and limey soils.

commonweeder February 16, 2012, 1:54 pm

It must be exciting to be enjoying spring for the first time in a new garden. I am jealous of your climate.

Dee/reddirtramblings February 16, 2012, 10:51 am

What we will pay for earlier blooms. They are priceless. All of my Bloom Day flowers are definitely in warmer microclimates. I should have said something about that. I’ve enjoyed every one of them so much just I have enjoyed yours. Thanks.~~Dee

joene February 16, 2012, 8:27 am

I left a garden 15 years ago and have enjoyed creating new gardens from a blank slate … a task I’m still, and hopefully always will be involved in. I also have a serious vole problem so it’s good to hear that your grit work seems to have payed off.

Kathy Purdy February 16, 2012, 9:01 am

I didn’t use grit around the 150 species tulips I planted one year, and I never got to see most of them. But those crocuses haven’t disappeared–yet. I can’t guarantee that the grit works. It could be they are just busy eating other goodies first.

Layanee February 16, 2012, 7:36 am

It must have been hard to leave that garden but perhaps that was the training ground for this new one. It will evolve much faster with that acquired knowledge.

Frances February 16, 2012, 6:07 am

It won’t take you twenty more years to make the new house garden just as wonderful, Kathy. You have learned so much from experience, what signs to look for, what will grow where. There will be fewer mistakes, but there will still be some anyway, that is how we evolve. Gardens take a lifetime to grow, even as you move from plot to plot. The gardener always takes some of the old along with them to the new. That’s the fun of it!

Lea's Menagerie February 16, 2012, 4:22 am

It is so wonderful to see those first shoots poking their heads out, testing the weather, then popping into bloom!
Happy Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day!