Along one of my favorite hiking trails near my home is a clear spring and the stone foundation of an old farmhouse that was abandoned more than a century ago. Though we no longer know the names and habits of the people who once lived there, they left behind something that draws me to the ruins nearly every spring. While the rest of the woods is bare, the area that was once the old dooryard is a blanket of spring-flowering snowdrops (Galanthus spp. and cvs.). Hundreds of dark-green leaves and white nodding blossoms form a cheerful naturalized carpet of bulbs perhaps where a garden once stood. The perky nature of the flowers is a visual delight, and their vigor and self-reliance inspire me to arrange and plant bulbs in a naturalized pattern in my own garden.
In gardening, the term naturalizing often refers to informal-looking, unplanned plantings of bulbs. Naturalized areas flourish when planted with self-propagating bulb species and varieties that spread freely in fields, meadows, lawns, and along wooded paths. Over time, these plantings tend to redesign themselves, each year expanding into a pattern governed more by nature than by the senses of the gardener and resulting in a garden that gives pleasure year after year without needing much in return.