Monday, September 7, 2009

Glory Of The Snow

When winter has become a burden, delightful little flowers popping through the snow delight the soul. Chionodoxa (pronounced kye-oh-no-DOK-sa) should be among them. Commonly called Glory-Of-The-Snow, it is aptly named. We seldom experience snow here in south Georgia, but late winter blooms pushing up through the grass are welcomed.

Like many of our favorite perennial bulbs, Chionodoxa is native to Turkey and the Mediterranean region. They have been in cultivation for so long that you will find them naturalized in many European and North American landscapes.

The genus Chionodoxa is in the Hyacinthaceae family, and the resemblance is evident. Though the flowers are not borne in such abundance as Hyacinthus, they are very charming. Plant size is under 6". Flower color ranges from blue to pink to white. Bloom season is from late winter to mid-spring, depending upon the region.

They are wonderful for naturalizing, even in the lawn. You can also use them to good effect in containers, bulb gardens, rock gardens, and in low borders. Don't expect a handful of bulbs to make much of an impression. They should be planted in large quantities en masse.

Glory-Of-The-Snow thrives in USDA climate zones 4 through 9, so gardeners in most parts of the U.S. can enjoy them. Plant in full sun. Average garden soil that is consistently moist with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8 is fine.

Before planting, take a sample of your garden soil to your local Cooperative Extension Service office. They often provide collection bags. For the most basic recommendations, you may be charged a nominal fee. For more information such as micro-nutrient and organic content you may be charged more. Their recommendations are well worth it.

Bulb planting begins in September or October, depending upon your area. Unless you are naturalizing them in the lawn, prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 6" deep, removing all traces of weeds. Compacted soil should be cultivated to 12" deep. Though they like moist soil, Chionodoxa bulbs do not like soggy conditions. Common soil amendments include sulphur for lowering pH, limestone for raising pH, sand for helping drainage, clay for slowing drainage, gypsum for breaking up caking clay and compost for enriching the soil. Bone meal is especially good for bulbs. Which you should use depends upon your particular circumstance.

Your soil sample report will include fertilizer recommendations based upon the results of the test. A fine all-around practice for Spring-flowering bulbs is to mix 5 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer and 2 cups of bone meal per ten square feet area of bulb garden. Repeat the application when shoots appear, but be careful that fertilizer does not come into direct contact with plant tissue.

Chionodoxa bulbs should be planted no deeper than 3". Depth is measured to the bottom of the hole. Recommended plant spacing is 3" to 6". A case of 250 should cover 30 to 60 square feet. Unless snow or rain fall is inadequate, irrigation should not be necessary.

Like many ornamental bulbs, Chionodoxa are toxic. Very sensitive persons may experience irritation with skin contact. However, that same characteristic makes them unattractive to hungry wildlife.

Glory-Of-The-Snow, planted liberally, will brighten your life when the winter blues have gotten you down. Plant some this fall and anticipate the pleasure.

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