Spring may seem like a long way off but in one regard it's already here. That would be in the arrival of spring blooming bulbs at your local nursery. There are of course a large variety of tulips, crocus and daffodils but these are just the tip of the iceberg. Spring favorites include fragrant hyacinths, which come in an increasing variety of colors, including a yellow for 2012, sweet smelling freesias and all manner of irises. Dutch irises are always popular and they too are broadening their color spectrum beyond purples and yellows. One of my favorites is Bronze Beauty, which combines bronze and purple tones. Then there are the bearded irises, with larger and more colorful blooms. They can be a bit more finicky but the reward is great. There's a reason there are bearded iris societies. I can also recommend some less common irises. Start with ensata (Japanese) irises, which feature enormous flowers. Siberian and Louisiana iris offer some fun patterns and are available as corms. Iris pseudacorus is a water loving iris with striking markings and delicate petals. Want to go native? Pacific Coast iris are a west coast native with flowers covering the entire color spectrum, many with attractive streaking.
There are lots of other colorful spring bulbs available in bulb form. Sparaxis (Harlequin flower) are an early blooming, very hardy perennial. Count ixias (corn lily) in that same category. Super easy to grow, will multiply and offer a bit of height to your bulb bed.
Got onions? No, not cooking onions bu the ornamental kind. To the uninitiated, it's hard to believe that this family could produce attractive flowers but they do, everything from tiny little guys like Allium neopolitanum to the giant globe alliums like Cristophii and Schubertii. It's really quite astonishing, the variety in this genus.
There are to many spring bulbs to list them all but eying the colorful boxes in the nursery holds out the promise for a spring not too far in the future, a promise that can sustain us through the long winter.