GLENCOE, Ill. (August 13, 2013) – Galanthomania – a passion for the late winter-flowering beauty known as the snowdrop – appears to have hit the Chicago Botanic Garden. Snowdrops provide Midwest gardeners one of the earliest signs of spring when the plant’s jade green leaves and small white flowers poke through a blanket of snow. Perhaps their early arrival or tendency to naturalize into pleasing drifts made the snowdrop (Galanthus spp.) the staff favorite in an informal poll conducted by Stephanie Lindemann, one of the people behind the Garden’s annual Fall Bulb Festival.
“Snowdrops are immensely popular in England and are gaining popularity in the United States,” said Lindemann, the Garden’s manager of horticultural events. “They have a pretty, scalloped, little white bloom and can be fragrant, too.”
Lindemann has her own favorite, winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), which can appear even earlier than the snowdrop. “It almost feels like a miracle to see the tiny, yellow daisy-like flower peeking out of the ground in February,” she said. Garden visitors will have the opportunity to learn about snowdrops, winter aconite and more at the Fall Bulb Festival, organized by the Woman’s Board of the Chicago Horticultural Society. Proceeds from the sale will be used to replace Garden trees lost to the emerald ash borer and help with restoration of the English Walled Garden.
The Fall Bulb Festival celebrates the natural wonders of the season with an outdoor market on the Esplanade and indoor bulb sale in the Regenstein Center’s Burnstein Hall. The festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, October 4 through Sunday, October 6. Admission is free. Regular parking fees apply.
The outdoor market will offer such items as honey, mushrooms, fresh produce, baked goods, hand-made pottery, a straw bale maze, family drop-in activities, live music and more. The bulb sale will feature more than 200 varieties of daffodils (Narcissus cv.), tulips (Tulipa spp.) alliums (Allium spp.) and specialty bulbs.
“We want to offer solid performers, as well as unusual varieties for connoisseurs willing to take more of a risk. We look for vendors who have the best quality and the freshest bulbs,” Lindemann said. “Bulbs have a wonderful payoff. For a little bit of work in the fall, gardeners can enjoy a flush of color in the spring.”
Shoppers can select single varieties or choose from blended mixes containing three or more types of bulbs that can be planted together to create pleasing blends or striking contrasts. Narcissus (Narcissus spp.) will be offered in four different blends: a fragrant meadow collection; an all-spring mix to provide early-, mid- and late-season blooms; a naturalizing blend; and a “pink sensation” mix. “Pink is hot in daffodils,” Lindemann said. “It’s the newest comer.”
Gardeners with limited outdoor space and those who choose to grow bulbs indoors will also find varieties to meet those needs. A wide range of shapes, colors and heights of amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp.) will be available for indoor decoration and hostess gifts. Paperwhite (Narcissus tazetta), daffodil (Narcissus cv.) and hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis) bulbs suitable for indoor growing will also be sold.
“Just about everything we have works in containers, as well,” Lindemann said. Bulbs can be stratified between layers of soil in a large pot that is kept protected from winter’s extreme cold, rain and snow. The container can then be placed outdoors in late February or early March to produce a splash of color.
The bulb sale offers something for every taste, even the fall blooming crocus (Colchicum autumnale) for gardeners who can’t wait until spring. “The second you buy them, you go home and put them in the ground,” Lindemann said. More information about these and other varieties will be available from master gardeners and Garden horticulturists on hand to answer questions about choosing and planting bulbs.
A select group of bulbs will be available through an online pre-sale on the Garden’s website from September 3 though September 27, 2013. Purchases can be picked up at the Fall Bulb Festival. The event is generously supported by NorthShore University HealthSystem and JULIE, Inc.