Here in the Black Hills we have a love-hate relationship with spring. We love seeing the tips of emerging spring bulbs - tulips, crocus and dafodils. Surely spring is HERE! And then there is wind or snow and...we hate it even as we are grateful for the moisture.

Since we cannot control the weather let alone our mood swings, we need to go looking for spring plants that can handle the often bizarre spring weather here.

The march 2013 edition of American Nurseryman Magazine - Horticulture Magazine and Horticulture Books has an excellent profile written by Sally Benson of our candidate as the guarenteed-to-please little species tulip - the magnificent Tulipa tarda.


"Sometimes it's the smallest things that have the greatest impact. Such is the case with the minor bulb called Tulipa tarda (tarda tulip). Minor in classification only, this gem is a workhorse in the spring garden, filling in around shrubs and quietly supporting its taller, more brilliantly colored cousins.

My first encounter with tarda tulip was during a course in bulbs at the Chicago Botanic Garden. During the eight weeks we spent with instructor extraordinaire Jill Selinger, now the Garden's manager of continuing education, we were dazzled by the phenomenal array of bulbs of all types and sizes and in all colors of the rainbow. From fantastic Fritillaria to diminutive Muscari, we covered them all. But it was the sunny blooms of Tulipa tarda that won my heart. The class was held in spring to allow for "bulb walks" throughout the grounds, but I couldn't wait for fall to fill my little garden with tarda.

Name:Tulipa tarda. Common name:Tarda tulip. Hardiness: Zones 3 to 8. Mature height: Can reach to 8 to 10 inches; normally 4 to 6 inches. Mature spread: May spread like a groundcover; single plant in first years will reach 4 to 6 inches. Classification: Minor bulb. Landscape Use: Perfect for rock gardens; naturalizes well around trees or shrubs; provides a layer of color at the front of the border. Ornamental Characteristics: Showy, star-like blooms emerge white with a yellow eye, often resembling fried eggs - but lovelier.

Tulipa tarda is an early riser, normally blooming from March through April in zones 3 to 8. It's easily grown in average, well-drained soil in full sun; despite its nativity in the rocky, subalpine meadows of central Asia, the bulb prefers a humusy mix. I've had no trouble, however, watching them multiply nicely in my sad clay soil. The small bulbs should be planted about 4 to 5 inches deep in fall, and after blooms are spent, foliage should be left in place until it yellows.

So what's the attraction to Tulipa tarda, aside from the rhythm of pronouncing its name? Each flowering stem produces three to six friendly, star-shaped blooms that emerge white with a brilliant yellow eye. Some say the flowers resemble a plate of fried eggs, but let's give the plant more credit than that. Individual blooms are upward-facing, spanning only about 2½ to 3 inches across. Held atop the 4- to 6-inch-tall stems, though, the flowering cluster offers a burst of sunshine to help shake off the winter blues.

The graceful, glossy green foliage is narrow and strap-like, reaching about 5 to 7 inches long. It has a tendency to arch a bit, presenting a fountain of green to surround the flower stalks. Tarda perennializes well when it's provided the appropriate growing conditions; from a small initial planting of 10 or so bulbs, my garden has maintained tarda for at least a dozen years. Given the chance, this plant will spread like a groundcover, but it's not aggressive and is quite easily maintained. It suffers very little from insect or disease infestation, and the only problems I've encountered occurred when I mistakenly dug up young bulblets and neglected to re-cover them sufficiently.

Without shouting its presence, this little bulb is beautiful in and of itself, but it also serves to highlight neighboring plants. Planted in rock gardens, at the front of the spring border or allowed to naturalize around trees and shrubs, Tulipa tarda promises a cheery little greeting to the new season."


Sally Benson

Editorial Director, Horticulture Group

American Nurseryman


Summer Food in Wintry February


16 Popular Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze

1. Garlic – You can freeze whole garlic, garlic cloves or chopped fresh garlic. Frozen garlic does lose some of its texture, but the flavor remains intact.

2. Corn – You can freeze fresh-picked corn on the cob for up to one year. Pack it in freezer bags — husk and silk and all. For store-bought corn, husk and blanch it before freezing.

3. Avocados – The bad news is that frozen avocados lose their consistency. The good news is that they do not lose their taste, so you can use them for guacamole or dressing. Wash and halve them before peeling. Freeze as halves, or puree them with lime or lemon juice and then store for up to eight months.

4. Mushrooms — You can freeze raw button, creminis and portabellas mushrooms for later use. Chop and slice mushrooms and then spread them on a cookie sheet. Freeze. Then transfer the pieces to bags or containers.

5. Onion – You can save chopping time – and tears – by freezing onion for cooking later. Store peeled, chopped onion in plastic freezer bags. The best part is you can just toss them into your recipes without thawing them first.

6. Hummus – Scoop your fresh hummus into plastic containers. Then drizzle a thin layer of olive oil on the top to keep it from drying out. Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before mixing and serving.

more such winter gardening from Off the Grid News