As a child growing up in Connecticut our spring gardens were full of flowering bulbs. My Dad concentrated on daffodils, narcissi and hyacinths. The latter have never done well for me in Vermont and I don't care for the over bearing fragrance anyway.
One of my favorite combination plantings is allium 'aflatunense' planted among the daylilies. They come up early and bloom while the daylilies are still putting out their initial foliage. When the daylilies are just about ready to begin blooming the foliage on the allium dries up and disappears. I simply snip off the gone-by allium blooms, but some people leave them as seed pod interest.
Above is this allium planted in a daylily display and below is a close-up. These are not the huge "Globemaster" type alliums, rather they are almost the size of a soft ball, just right in my opinion.
I am planting them in pots now for spring sales, but the best bet is to buy the bulbs now and get them in the ground before it freezes.
Another shorter allium I love for its foliage and spring flowers is Allium Karataviense.
This allium is perfect for the front of borders or rock gardens. It has golf-ball sized blooms on 10 inch stems and it is the combination of those blooms and the broad fleshy foliage that appeals to me.
Years ago I bought a pot of Oxalis Adenophylla from a nursery and they did well for quite a few years in my shade garden as a spring bloomer.
It is one funny looking bulb, and I plant it in pots every fall for spring sales with limited success. But planted directly in the soil it should do fine.
When the first gardeners visit my business in the spring, they all seem to love 'trout lily' (erythronium) or some call it "dog's tooth violet." These have increased every year for me. They go dormant and completely disappear by early summer.
Another plant that folks have asked me about in my spring garden is the species tulip, Dasystemon 'Tarda.' It resembles a crocus more than a the flower we associate with Dutch tulips, but it's a good perennial, self-seeding where happy. The blooms last a long time and are a great way to welcome the new growing season.
For quite a few years I had a showy orange Fritillaria imperialis in a display garden. I tried planting it in the fall in pots for the spring sales and in the ground to dig and pot up in the spring, without any luck. This fall I am planting some frittilaria MELEAGRIS.
It is supposed to do well in a sheltered spot in the garden, and I'm thinking it will be nice with the Trout Lily. This is called the "checkered lily" and the following photo is from the bulb company I use.
It has been around since 1575 and is rated zone 3-8, so it certainly has proven its mettle.
I always buy some tulips to plant in our village and treat them like annuals. There's nothing subtly about my selection for this year's planting, "Holland's Glory." Here in northern Vermont we have a short growing season. Our winters can be cold and mean, followed by a challenging mud season, so we like our blooms loud and cheerful.
I officially closed my business for the season Oct. 1. All but one of the mums sold at farmers' market (some seen here before loading)
I stopped on my way home to take some of the same photos that I'm sure "leaf peepers" take.
We had a lot of rain last week, flooding the fields across the road to the point that three people got in a canoe and paddled around in a pond that covered a hay field.
One of my very favorite plants for winter interest is miscanthus ‘siberfeder’. It stands up to all kids of weather, is lovely in every light, and is still upright and proud in the spring.
I also sell Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foester" which was named the 2001 perennial plant of the year, but I only do that because people ask for that one. It grows too fast for my taste and quickly becomes just grass in the garden. I prefer a stand of grass that adds vertical structure my plantings. I haven't had much luck with other grasses, but will keep trying.
When I left the Department of Agriculture 20+ years ago my staff gave me a small weeping crab apple tree which I popped in the lawn by the driveway. It has grown well every year and always provides food for the birds that stick around late into the fall. This year the fruit yield is unbelievable.