Say ‘early bulbs’ and snowdrops come to mind. But there are others that flower in January to bring flashes of colour to the garden in January. Last year I saw a very effective mix at Oxford Botanic Garden of snowdrops with winter aconites, eranthis hyemalis. And like snowdrops, these like a shady position in moist soil. But I have found them fairly adaptable, growing them in a clay soil improved with grit in a sunny border where perennials shade them from the hottest sun.
There is also a paler variety named ‘Schwefelganz.’ I planted this with the normal yellow ones but was disappointed with the result as the pure yellow ones made this one look muddy.
The easiest spring-flowering cyclamen is C. coum, with flowers in various shades of pink, or white. There are also forms with variously grey or grey-green foliage. Again, they all like a little shade although they can put up with quite a dry spot. They will also self-sow into a sunnier position than you might have imagined they could cope with.
Often, it’s not a snowdrop that’s first into flower for me but narcissus ‘Cedric Morris.’ Cedric is about 25cms (10 inches) tall, and is so keen to bloom, I have even had him flowering in the second week of December if the weather suits him.
But of course, we can’t ignore the common snowdrop, galanthus nivalis, which quickly clumps up to make good stands from a few bulbs, especially if you have a helper!