The First Blooms of 2019

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

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And who is more desperate than the cold climate gardener who’s been inundated with social media images of spring flowers blooming in warmer climates?

Thank goodness my “desperate measures” are already in place. I’ve been planting early blooming bulbs where the snow melts first for several years. And every time the snow starts to melt, I check all those places for signs of emerging sprouts.

Yes, I check during every thaw, even the January and February ones, and sometimes I do see the green points of leaves-to-come. This week we had a real thaw, with temps rising into the 60s (~16C) on the last two days, and I was rewarded with blooms in many places. But it started with just one bloom several days earlier.

eranthis septic tank

The very first flowering bulb of 2019.

I felt a little sheepish when I posted this on Facebook and got comments like “You give me hope” and “You beat me, Kath.”
septic tank

People, I planted this over the septic tank!

It was the only place the snow had melted at the beginning of the thaw. It was one teeny flower surrounded on all sides by snow. And yes, it gave me hope, too, which is exactly why I planted a mix of Aladdin’s Carpet and Woodland Blend (both from Colorblends) over the septic tank last fall. It’s not a traditional flower bed, but the snow melts there first, and the grass grows sparsely there so mowing can be delayed until the foliage of these early bloomers goes dormant.
septic tank three eranthis

By the last day of the thaw, I had three winter aconites blooming there.

eranthis cabin fever

I also had them blooming up against the house. Look how many are yet to come!

cabin fever eranthis location

And when I say “up against the house,” I do mean right up against it, under my cabin fever window.

S. Arnott under hydrangea

I also had the early-blooming snowdrop, Galanthus ‘S.Arnott’, blooming in several locations. These are at the base of an Incrediball hydrangea.

Crocus korolkowii black-eyed beauty

Crocus korolkowii ‘Black-eyed Beauty’, my earliest blooming crocus, was also opening up.

Hamamelis vernalis

The vernal witch hazel continued to unfurl.

cyclamen coum

Towards the end of the last warm day, a patch of snow melted, revealing several Cyclamen coum that must have started blooming under the snow.

crocus from lawn

Several crocuses in the lawn were sending up leaves, promising flowers soon.

double fantasy hellebore

And this ‘Double Fantasy’ hellebore is one of several in the Cabin Fever Bed showing big fat buds.

But of course, the thaw didn’t last. The temperature dropped back into the 30s (~1.5C) and we’ve had more snow–though it has melted off the road. Another thaw is predicted for this upcoming weekend. Soon the thaws will run into each other and the snow will become a distant memory. But not yet.

Meanwhile, inside the house . . .


This amaryllis has sent up five stalks, two of which are done. There is a sixth stalk emerging!

It’s the same one that I posed with here.
quince buds

The buds of the flowering quince that I brought inside to force are not quite the size of peas yet. I hope they will bloom indoors before the shrub blooms outdoors.

I have never tried forcing flowering quince before. The forsythia I cut earlier this year bloomed within a week. The quince has been in the house for a good two weeks and looks like it will take another week (at least) to bloom.

Experimenting with forcing branches indoors helps keep things interesting in between mud season treasure hunts for the earliest bloom. If you need more early-blooming plants in your yard, make sure you take pictures of where the snow melts first, and order some “desperate measures” this fall.

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. Check it out at 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.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

Comments on this entry are closed.

Pat March 21, 2019, 10:28 am

Kathy – You have given me ideas for where I can plant a few more bulbs that warm up early. I finally have a few tiny shoots that have been uncovered – and I want more!

Kathy Purdy March 21, 2019, 1:41 pm

I’m glad I gave you some ideas. Also check out this post for more locations.

Francesca March 20, 2019, 2:42 pm

Great blog post and lovely photographs! It’s so inspiring how you make the most of the outdoors and garden even in such a cold climate.

Linda Brazill March 20, 2019, 10:00 am

my snowdrops against the house under the big window are about to open. But still so much snow that I can’t get around to see if I am as lucky as you are!

Kathy Purdy March 20, 2019, 6:26 pm

I think Wisconsin got a lot more snow than my part of upstate NY. Usually we are at about the same spot in terms of what’s blooming.

Arun Goyal March 18, 2019, 11:37 am

Wow! lovely snow drops…hope you have an early spring that brings more bountiful blooms …We are in mid spring enjoying every bit of spring…Have a great week ahead.

Helen Battersby March 18, 2019, 10:48 am

Hope is the thing with petals, that nestles in the cabin fever bed…

Mary March 18, 2019, 9:14 am

Oh that does give me hope…no bare spots in our yard yet for bulbs to appear but the snow is melting fast as we’d finally have a whole week of above freezing highs and a 50 on the forecast for Friday. Thank you for sharing!

Kathy Purdy March 18, 2019, 5:23 pm

Glad to hear your snow melt is making progress. Don’t forget to take pictures of where the snow melts first–and then plant bulbs there!

Kathy March 18, 2019, 7:55 am

Such a long, long wait Kathy! I loved the joy of Spring in the North Country and I thought I’d miss it more but … nah. In my new zone plum, peach, apple and redbud have been blooming for weeks already. My begonia continues to bloom, outside. I’ve already spied a hummingbird. Winter aconite and crocus blooms were always some of my favorite! Looks like you will have a wonderful display!

Andrea March 18, 2019, 5:57 am

You are still with snow and cold while we here just started our dry season, but already very hot! That hippeastrum is so beautiful, I also posted my forced bulbs. Our normal flowering is still in May after the first heavy rains.

Kathy Purdy March 18, 2019, 7:13 am

Thank you for taking the time to comment, Andrea. It sounds like you’re in a much warmer area than I am.

Nedra Secrist March 18, 2019, 5:46 am

We certainly have similar gardening conditions with our cold temperatures so I appreciated single glimpse of color in your garden!

Kathy Purdy March 18, 2019, 7:14 am

Yes, Nedra, similar cold, but I believe you have a drier climate.