If you are at all like me, order your fall-planted bulbs now before you get too worn out. I curse myself every fall for taking my own advice after a zillion bulbs start showing up (not really, but it always seems like it). And as we all know, no matter how "done with" planting you may be, you will have no choice but to plant them. Then the following spring when the results of your grudging labor burst forth, you'll feel rather proud of yourself for falling for such trickery. There is also another benefit of ordering early, you avoid the disappointment of the late season "SOLD OUT" syndrome.
Of the fall-planted species, Narcissus is my favorite. They are rather reliable and there is just something inherently cheerful about them. A handy classification system has been developed for describing daffodil blooms, including 13 divisions and six color codes. Narcissus 'Rockall' (insert) has a description of 3W-R. Reading left to right, the first number designates the division. 'Rockall' is a Division 3 – Small Cup, meaning there is one flower to a stem and the corona or cup is not more than 1/3 the length of the perianth segments or petals. Immediately after the division designation is the color code for the perianth (petals). If the perianth should have more than one distinct color, the outside edge would be identified first, then the middle, then the inside part next to the corona. 'Rockall' is simple because it has an all-white perianth, so it is designated as "W." The final color descriptor following a "dash" is the corona (cup) description. The corona is described from the center out. 'Rockall' has an all-red corona, so it is designated as "R." For a complete listing of division descriptions and color codes, visit The American Daffodil Society at http://daffodilusa.org/
Daffodils may be the most well-known harbingers of spring, but I find myself anticipating two other early blooming species just as much. The first one is Sanguinaria canadensis (a.k.a Bloodroot), which is native throughout the entire eastern half of North America. Flowers are relatively short lived, but leaves grow rapidly after the flowers die and persists until late summer. I find the bloom of the double form last a bit longer but not by much. Plants spread by rhizomes and can become a nice little colony in a few years. The seeds of bloodroot can also be spread by ants, a process called myrmecochory—that's your new term for the day. And as you might have guessed, the "blood" of the root (when cut open) can be used as a natural dye.
The other early bloomer is Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa (a.k.a liverleaf). And like bloodroot, this buttercup member is native to the entire eastern half of North America. Hepatica is named for its leaves which are 3-lobed like the human liver. If there is one thing that mars this beautiful little plant is that old leaves are retained much like hellebores, which provides a leathery, liver colored backdrop to an otherwise mass of dainty flowers that can come in pink, purple, blue or white petal-like sepals. And like bloodroot, ants help to spread the seed.