Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Little Bulbs

The book is a classic among gardeners. The author is, too. And I've had The Little Bulbs by Elizabeth Lawrence gathering dust on my bookshelf for too long. Since my little bulbs are coming up and preparing to bloom, I figured now was a good time to dust it off and read it.

In case you haven't heard of Elizabeth Lawrence, she was a gardener living in North Carolina and wrote several books on gardening, as well as a weekly column in the Charlotte Observer from 1957-1971. The Little Bulbs is not the first book by Ms. Lawrence that I've ever read.

A year or so ago, I read Two Gardeners: A Friendship in Letters, in which she recounts her years of correspondence with Katherine White, wife of author E.B. White (Charlotte's Web). As one who had pen pals from a young age and has continued to this day, I thought I'd love this book. I didn't. I became bored with it about halfway through and while I continued reading it past the point of boredom, I don't think I ever finished it.

But The Little Bulbs is good. I've not finished it yet, but I don't think that will be a problem this time. In this one, she starts by discussing the little bulbs in a garden - those first harbingers of spring, both literally and figuratively. (Yes, there's a flower called Harbinger of Spring!) She then takes us through the rest of the botanical year and tells us about each season's little bulbs.

Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Flore Pleno'
March 10, 2009

In my own garden, the double snowdrops have finally popped up through the mud (it's been raining - a lot), and just yesterday the first one opened fully. These doubles haven't multiplied like I'd like, so I think this fall I will just have to get some more of them. Some singles, too. They're the first things to bloom around here, so more would be nice.

I imagine the next spot of color I'll see will be from the crocuses, although the daffodils on the south side of the house just might beat them to the punch. They're standing tall, with pregnant buds about to burst forth with the ugliest daffodils I've ever seen.

Yes, I'm talking about those 'Repletes' that I've vowed to dig up and just throw away for the last three years. They're way photogenic though and maybe that's why I let them stay. Either that, or I get busy and forget about them until spring rolls around again.

There are other daffodils here though -

  • 'Faith'
  • 'Rick'
  • 'Sagitta'
  • 'Thalia'
  • 'Tête-à-Tête'
  • 'Rip van Winkle'
  • 'Jetfire'
  • 'Avalon'
  • 'Delibes'
  • 'Pipit'
  • 'Golden Bells'
  • 'Baby Moon'
  • 'Pink Charm'
  • 'Lemon Beauty
  • Poet's Daffodil

I like every one of those.

I see the Dutch Iris starting to make an appearance, too, as are the tulips and some of the alliums. The only spring bulbs I don't see yet are the large Dutch hyacinths, of whick I've got three or four different kinds. But the grassy foliage of the tiny grape hyacinth clusters has been up for weeks. No flower buds yet, but it's early.

Back to the book...

Written in 1957, the information is still pretty accurate and relevant. Ms. Lawrence mentions her friend from Ohio - Mr. Krippendorf - quite often and relays his accounting of blooms where he lives. From the times he reports blooms from those things that are familiar to me, I knew he lived in a different part of Ohio than I do.

When I researched it, I was right - he lived near Cincinnati, which is a zone warmer than here.
Mr. Krippendorf's home and woods of which he often speaks are now part of the Cincinnati Nature Center. Mom, Kara and I are taking two days in April to go to Cincinnati for the Flower Show and a visit to Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum. Maybe we'll swing by Mr. Krippendorf's place, too.

In The Little Bulbs, Elizabeth Lawrence and I got off to a good start straight away. In the preface, she writes:

"It is not enough to grow plants; really to know them one must get to know how they grow elsewhere. To learn this it is necessary to create a correspondence with other gardeners, and to cultivate it as diligently as the garden itself. From putting together the experiences of gardeners in different places, a conception of plants begins to form. Gardening, reading about gardening, and writing about gardening are all one; no one can garden alone."

Wouldn't she have been a great garden blogger?

Poet's Narcissus - April 29, 2008


Brenda Pruitt said...

I love that precious snowdrop flower! Looks like a little hanging lantern.

Anonymous said...

All the little bulbs (light bulbs?) are so pretty and so welcome this time of year -- I do love those golden crocuses, though! And the Poet's Narcissus.

Kris said...

As they say, good things come in small packages. These tiny first flowers are always welcome! :-)

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I imagine Elizabeth Lawrence would have been a great garden blogger. I haven't read "The Little Bulbs" in a very long time; I should re-read it.
I just love your double Galanthus. Are they sterile? I wondering if that's why they haven't spread. 'Repelete' is just too much; I bet it was bred as a show bench flower, not as a landscape plant.

Donna at Suburban Sanctum said...

Funny, I almost used the last line of your Lawrence quote in my blog head. Good stuff. Sorry to hear you didn't care for Two Gardeners. It still ranks as one of my favorites. To each her own, I guess! :) I've always kind of thought of Elizabeth and Katherine as being the predecessors to us garden bloggers, but at a MUCH slower pace. I love the interaction of their very different personalities: Katherine, the successful, somewhat brash New York editor, yet rather insecure and much needing the encouragement and affirmation of her more gentle, reserved, and steadfast southern friend, both valuing each other's input on their various projects. I cried at the end when...well I won't spoil it for you in case you ever decide to finish it! I'll bet it will be glorious when all your daff varieties come into bloom!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This is such a nice post Kylee. I can't wait to see photos of all, or at least a good portion, of the daffodils you have planted. What a great sounding collecion.

Cathy S. said...

Oh the snowdrops are just beautiful!
Now I am feeling spring with all the
beautiful Bulbs. Thanks Kylee!

Gail said...

The Little Bulbs was the second of her books that I read...The first was A Southern Garden....she would have been an interesting gardner to know. I loved that she would crawl underneath a shrub to see how the flower looked against the sky. It's going too be golden in your garden when all your daffs bloom!

Kerri said...

With all the snow you've had I'm surprised to see crocuses blooming there already. Aren't they such a welcome sight? I found 2 snowdrop blooms open today :) Daffs and tulips are poking through.
I have "The Little Bulbs" on my book list and look forward to reading it. I loved Two Gardeners and my hubby enjoyed it too. As Donna said, to each his own. It's good that we're all different!
I planted Poet's daffs last fall and can't wait to see their sweet faces! :)

bg_garden said...

Snow drops are lovely. I need to purchase some for next years spring bloom show. LOVE IT!
You have a wonderful blog. Did you all get some flooding ? We have a nice little lake in our front acreage where the river flowed over. Come see my photos of the geese who visited the garden today.

Kylee Baumle said...

Brenda, Nancy, Kris, Mr. McGregor's Daughter, Donna, Lisa, Cathy, Gail, and Kerri ~ Blogger just ate all my comments back to you!!!

I don't know if the Galanthus are sterile or not. I'll have to investigate.

Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind when I read "Two Gardeners." I've had that happen before - I start to read a book, can't get into it, put it down, then go back and try reading it again and I like it a lot. Maybe I'll have to try reading it again.

Those of you with Poet's Daffodils, don't forget to bend down and smell them! They smell heavenly!

All those daffodils are scattered throughout the gardens and they don't all bloom at the same time, so they don't make as big of an impact as you might think. But they're glorious all the same! :-)

Kerri, the crocus aren't blooming here yet. That photo is from a couple of years ago. But they might be the next to bloom!

Kylee Baumle said...

Bren ~ We sure did have a lot of water! It's gone at the moment, but the rivers to our west are still rising and they flow this way, so we will likely have more flooding. One of my friends here made a comment on Facebook about having lakefront property. LOL.

Cool geese! When I was out yesterday, I heard and saw some over at our neighbor's pond. sure had a lot of water. Did any get into your house? I hope not!

Anonymous said...

I have this book of hers and several others. I have to read them in parts and not as a whole. I like her love for gardening and how she talks about the details...but it is too much for one sitting sometimes. You done a grand job of explaining Little Bulbs.

Your bulbs are many and beautiful. I would be enjoying the bulbs at my former home about right now. Sometimes it's no fun having a new garden. It's kinda sad.

Anonymous said...

I share that love for little springbulbs.
I have lots of them in my garden, most of the botanical kind.
Hundreds of Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and giant Snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii have been blooming, and this year I already had 8 Dutch (?) irises (Iris reticulata) where I only planted one years ago. My botanical crocuses (C. vernus and C. tommaninianus are naturalizing at a good speed, and also my native daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) are doing well. The botanical tulips (Tulipa sylvestris), the only tulip I really like, seems to hesitate, but I have discovered grape hyacint (Muscari botryoides at the other side of the garden.)
I'm going to find out where I can optain the book!

Kylee Baumle said...

flowergardengirl ~ That's a good read these books in parts. Right now I'm reading about the daffodils and's almost like reading Numbers in the Bible. LOL

Awww...I know what you mean about new gardens. I remember when I first started Max's Garden here. It just didn't have any history or character but it didn't take it long to develop it. Hang in there!

AnneTanne ~ Lucky you, to have so many spring bulbs! I think you would really enjoy The Little Bulbs.

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