January is cold and gray. That is until you look closely. Hidden under the remaining leaves are the first signs of spring. Look carefully and you will see daffodils and other bulbs sending up new shoots. Give these a few days and you’ll see them in flower. Some daffodils and the snowdrops welcome the new year with flowers. In fact, our heirloom daffodils are at their best from late January into March, well before the modern Dutch hybrids.
The first act of daffodil season is ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’, a classic yellow trumpet that first blooms around New Year’s Day in Atlanta gardens. Dating back to 1943, it is amazing that it is not more widely used. The cold air helps the flowers last for several weeks.
Also blooming early is Narcissus pseudonarcissus. The “Pseudos” or “Lent Lilies” as they are affectionally called are European natives. It is believed that William Wordsworth was inspired to write his famous poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” when he saw hundreds of them growing wild in a field. True survivors, we have found this lovely little yellow trumpet lining the front walks of countless old homesites and blooming under thickets of blackberry and kudzu in abandoned fields. These will be blooming at Oakland in late January and early February, so pick a pretty day and turn left when you enter the front gate. You will find them by the hundreds under the trees along the front wall and scattered elsewhere on the grounds.
Another winter gem are the snowdrops, properly named Galanthus. Blooming in January, these are diminutive beauties, often less than six inches high, but with a delicate charm that is hard to resist. Small white bells with green tips hang daintily from arched stems and are accompanied by strap-shaped leaves. Both the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus elwesii, the giant snowdrop does well in Atlanta gardens. Ours are scattered across a lot in front of the Bell Tower. They’re lovely anywhere but these tiny treasures will be best if planted near doorways and walks so that they are sure to be enjoyed.