The Second Best Time of Year


Tulips house
Okay, my favorite moment in the garden is September, when the summer vegetables are still going strong and the fall crops are starting to come in and there is never a better moment all year to cook gorgeous meals.

But second best is this moment, which has nothing to do with dinner: the moment when the hybrid tulips, the species tulips, the euphorbia polychroma, brunnera, and white violets are all going at once.

Of course, if you want a big show of tulips in May, it will cost you.  The 'Purple Prince' tulips and whatever consort I choose (this year, it's 'Princess Irene') are really annuals that have to be replaced every year. Completely convinced that more is more, at least where the Prince is concerned, I've started buying him in boxes of 100 from Van Engelen, the whole arm of John Scheepers.

Tulips viola
Fortunately, some parts of the show are free: the white violets and euphorbias are seeding themselves like mad.  I know that many people consider these common violets a weed.  I do, too, as soon as they finish flowering.  But right now, these tiny pristine flowers add the most piquant possible contrast to the big colorful tulips.



  1. Have to agree, this is a wonderful time of year in the garden. Here in N. Cal the 1st of May is The Big Bloom season of roses. Even though I hate to maintain them, I love the look and the fragrance.
    Spanish lavender is all spiked up and blooming, Citrus is still dripping with fruit, and the vegetable garden is fat and full with winter veggies – lettuce, peas, arugula, cilantro, kale…. . It can be a challenging time for the veggie gardener because so much from the winter garden is still going strong but it is time to plant the summer veggies. This is a problem for those of us with limited space. The dilemma is to pull the lettuce to make room for the squash and rip off the peas so that the tomatoes can use the trellis’s. Such problems to have ! – happy spring.

  2. This is the time of year when I realize I’ve got a lot of summer and fall blooming perennials, and not nearly enough spring ones. Working to remedy that.
    I am considering Euphorbias–do they affect your skin? I am nervous when it comes to irritants. As long as I don’t break a stem and rub it all over my arm, I should be okay, right?

  3. I love those little violets (mine are purple, blue and a little yellow and white), even after they bloom; the leaves are a nice shape and color next to my lavender, thyme and mint. I carefully weed around them all year long. Along with the snow drops and daffodils, they’re the first things to show color in my border, and they’ve survived with little real maintenance for years.

  4. The best thing about this time of year is the promise of a better garden. The bugs haven’t started chewing; the diseases haven’t set in. It’s so exciting to see your perennials coming back again, surging up. You realize that buds are just as beautiful as flowers. Your heart fills with hope that this summer will be perfect.

  5. Violets will do as they will. Best to just admire them and say, “Look at my lovely violets.” Really want to grow tulips in Arlington, but my squirrels eat them all winter long and nothing blooms. My garden is black & white, so I’d love to grow some of the great black ones.

  6. Spring has just barely started in Minnesota. The tulips are just opening and the daffodils are in bloom. I put in the kale and spinach and snow peas just a few days ago. This isn’t normal even by Minnesota standards, but really there hasn’t been a normal spring for quite a while. We were overdue.

    See my little garden at:

  7. I love violets but I am picky about which ones are allowed to stay. The common blue one reminds me of Orange Daylilies (aka Ditch Lilies). They are pretty but there are better versions out there. The Common Blue Violet and it’s white sport tend to have very thick root systems that crowd out other plants.

    Instead, I have several masses of a cream colored one called Cream Violet – Viola striata. It is a stemmed violet and will bloom for about 6 weeks. The other is the elegant Canadian Violet – Viola canadensis. I also have a couple of nice clumps of Prairie Violet. These all form reasonably behaved clumps or drifts that are more easier managed then the weedier Common Purple Violet and it’s white version. They play nicer with other plants as well.

  8. I confess that I bought 50 Keizerskroon and 100 Menton tulips from Van Engelen last fall. Some would call them terrifically gaudy, I call them cheerful. After a winter that never seems to end, I need a garden full of color. I can’t wait until this fall when I’ll order a bunch more tulips of clashing colors, mix them all together, plant them, and wait 6 months for the show.

  9. I don’t see violets around much any more, certainly not the white ones. It’s a beautiful combination you have there, with those showy tulips!

  10. This is a glorious time of year. All my different kinds of daffodils are blooming, and the grape hyacinths, and the real hyacinths. The air is wafting perfume from every corner of the yard. Oh my, garden porn at it’s best!

    My boyfriend asked what will be coming next, and I really couldn’t remember at the time. Who cares, just enjoy this moment.

  11. Beautiful plantings! I have a violet called ‘Freckles’ that I grew from seed many years ago. They are white splashed with spots of light purple. SJ–I will have to check out some of your violets; they sound so pretty.

    I let my tulips go about three years, then re-plant. I’ll be digging up ‘Pink Impression’ this year and getting something else from Van Engelen as well.

  12. You’re right, right now everything looks fresh & green and peaceful. We have a lush carpet of Lilies of the valley surrounding an old maple that looked good even before blooming.
    I did almost nothing to deserve this, except weeding/feeding, which may be why I’m enjoying it so.
    The Lilacs have come, and gone. I cut several bouquets which I had for about 30 hours but the glorious scent makes it worthwhile.

    Yes, the little violets are terrific, I leave mine in and even pick them for little pots.
    I have the white stripped one which I think is called ‘Freckles’; this is pretty, too.

    Heck at this time of the year even the Dandelions look good!

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