Pardon my tarda-ness

A big pile of work, a billion Norway maple seedlings – sometimes things conspire against you and enjoyment of your garden. That doesn’t mean you can’t pause for a little adoration of a few special sparkles.

And speaking of sparkles: Tulipa tarda – everyone should have these species tulips in their garden!

First come lots of small, strappy leaves, then the snakey-headed buds, then an explosion of white-tipped yellow stars. After the snowdrops have melted, but along with the earliest baby bulbs: Chionodoxa, Scilla and the first of the Muscari. A big puff of white Arabis (or rock cress) makes the perfect complement. Show-stopping.

Who knows why they’re called “tarda,” which usually means “late.” Even with this year’s tardy spring, they’re among the first to bloom their little starry heads off in one of my most challenging positions, a sharp slope based in sand and choked with maple roots.

Tardas aren’t the kind of bulb you’ll find at Home Depot. But seek them out online or at higher-end nurseries. (I mourn the loss of Cruikshank’s for bulbs!)

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