First Flower of 2011

When spring comes late, any flower is a welcome first sight. This is a Bulbocodium vernum in the rock garden. It opened yesterday, April 27. If it had waited another four days, the first flower of 2011 would not have appeared until May. Not a record I wanted to see set, but would have been something to brag about.

I planted five of these in the fall of 2009. Last spring, four came up. (The fifth one had looked unpromising — often the way with mail-ordered bulbs: one little squishy thing to four good solid specimens is a common ratio.) This spring, only two have shown up, but they have increased in size, producing three or four or more flowers each where in the first year they produced one. Not spectacular value at $2 a bulb, but if the remaining two go on to form small, divisible clumps, I will be pleased enough.

These flowers do not provide a riot of spring colour (see photo), appearing white in bud and pale purple when open. Alone in the garden, they are overwhelmed by their bleak and barren surroundings — dirty gravel, leaf litter, and the ruined remains of last summer’s primula foliage. They look like the only two plants left on earth. They need company, or a smaller setting — a pot in a coldframe or alpine house.

UPDATE: Here are the two of them two days later, early morning before the flowers have opened. (It’s not a bad looking little rock garden, when you crop out 99.5% of it.)

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