February 18, 2011 | Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator & Director of Outreach

Ellen shows us a few of the earlybirds out in the garden in her FEb. 17 blog post (below). I am including a picture of some more that are blooming for me (although I confess I took these pictures almost exactly a year ago). Trust me---these and more are blooming.I counted eleven species and nine genera of plants that have suddenly popped into bloom just in my own garden). This time of year all HECK breaks loose. Just think that in a month literally HUNDREDS of kinds of plants of all sorts will be blooming all over Denver Botanic Gardens, and by May we are probably talking THOUSANDS. The gem above reveals why crocuses (remember the ones that were blooming last fall?) are so imperative for Colorado gardens. You can have crocuses blooming from September pretty much through winter until May in some shady spots. That's nine months of prismatic, magical bloom! Why on earth are people so obsessed with smart phones and television and all the idiotic technological crud that is polluting our lives when there are crocuses to worship? Come immediately to Denver Botanic Gardens and fall down in worship before these early treasures. Just think, they were out there (naked!) in that -20F cold just a few weeks ago with only the thinnest blanket of snow, and yet they are now up and happy--you try that, my friend! Put THAT in your Droid and smoke it!

Iris reticulata 'Clairette'

I have a bank at home studded with a dozen or so of these blooming right now, and I see them poking up here and there all over the Gardens. You know the problem with America? How come there are medical marijuana outlets popping up every ten feet and still not enough reticulate irises? Do we have our priorities skewed or what? These majestic miniatures from Western Asia thrive in a variety of sites and soils. They form big clumps in a few years. They are sweetly fragrant and infinitely graceful, and they cost PEANUTS to plant in the autumn.

greentip snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis 'Viridapice')

Recently, John Grimshaw (who might well be described as Dr. Galanthus) reported on the remarkable sale of Galanthus E. A. Bowles for over $500 on Ebay. I think this shows the British have their priorities straight! Although I have to confess I doubt I'd cough up that much for one even if I COULD afford one... But you can buy no end of snowdrops from many sources for practically pennies a bulb.

We have wonderful stands of them here and there all over Denver Botanic Gardens. You will see especially good displays right now just west and slightly north of the former "Alpine House" (now a Cactus & Succulent house) along the Cheesman Park fence in the Rock Alpine Garden. It is easy to poke fun of the extraordinary enthusiasm Britons have for these tiny white treasures: there are literally hundreds of selections, distinguished ever so tenuously from one another. I like the variation above (which is blooming for me right now)--the green tipped form. True enthusiasts get on their hands and knees and sniff them. They have a sweet fragrance (as do most of these early flowers. They'll do anything to lure the few pollinators out there!).

I find my files are chockablock full of these early spring flowers. I get so excited to see the landscape coming into bloom. Like Ellen, I take pictures of shoots and little buds popping up. It's instructive to re-read the wonderful passages on the March thaw in Henry David Thorough's classic Walden this time of year, or as Robert Frost reminds us:

Nature's first green is gold/ Her hardest hue to hold/ Her early leaf's a flower/ But only so an hour/Soon leaf subsides to leaf/ So Eden sank to Grief/ So dawn goes down to day/For nothing gold can stay.


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