Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spring Bulbs at Smith College

I returned on Sunday to the Smith College Botanical Greenhouses, just to take in the scents and the warm humid air. I was not expecting to see too many new things, as I was there only a few weeks ago, but I was pleasantly surprised to get a glimpse at the very beginning of the spring bulb show, which officially opens in March.

Freesia alba
Of the Iridacea family, this is one of the species Feesias that inspired the many cultivated hybrids found in florists shops. This little bulb is intensely fragrant and relatively easy to grow (in a pot for climates colder than zone 9). It grows all winter, blooms in spring, and remains dormant throughout the summer. Some scents are strongly associated with a place and for me, the aroma of Feesia transports me to Florence, Italy where I spent a year during college. There was a flower shop on my walk to school that radiated this fragrance and these brightly colored flowers were arranged in buckets on the doorstep. At Smith, there was only one flower in bloom, but its scent was powerful. I think I stooped ten times or more to stick my nose in the flower, close my eyes, and take in the fragrance.

Ipheion uniflorum (syn. Tristagma uniflorum)
Also known as spring star, this little flowering bulb hails from Argentina and Uraguay and has naturalized in many warmer climates in the southern part of the United States. I love its striped petal undersides.


Lachenalia aloides
This is a new genus to me and at Smith there were three different species all in bloom. It is not winter hardy here, but seems to be rather common in more temperate gardens. While I was looking for information on these bulbs, I came across a great post on unusual Lachenalia species on the blog Growing with Plants.


Lachenalia pallida

Lachenalia carnosa not quite in flower, but just beginning

As I was leaving I spotted some escaped Leucojum plants blooming under the benches!


  1. Nice post and a reminder of the Smith Greenhouses. I found your blog when I googled the Berg garden and Gordon Hayward. I belong to a group of horticulture professionals that go on an annual summer outing visiting gardens and greenhouses, nurseries and other plant focused sites. I spoke with Gordon today and we may be visiting the gardens up your way this August.

  2. Hi Katherine,
    Thank you for your nice comment. I checked out your blog and the Avant Gardens site- all of it is so beautiful. Such choice and gorgeous plants you sell, feature, and write about! I hope you are able to make it north in August. Thanks again!