Taking Root: A Garden Blog

Think Spring Bulbs

Posted in Autumn Inspiration

It is bulb planting season.  As the fresh autumn breezes rustle through the changing fall leaves, spring is not the first thing that comes to mind.  In order to be rewarded with brilliant colored spring flowers we need to get a move on. Put an order into a bulb supplier or visit a garden center. We all know those stop you in your tracks favorites like yellow Daffodils and Red Tulips, but have you thought about extending your spring season with Snowdrops and Winter Aconite that can begin flowering as early as February? Blue Siberian Squill and Chionodoxa are soon to follow. These bulbs all flower ahead of the common Crocus, which is now available in some not so common new colors. Try some pastel varieties of crocus such as Blue Pearl, Romance and Firefly. Crocuses are not only for spring.   Fall flowering varieties can also be planted now along with their cousin the Fall Blooming Colchicum.

Daffodils, botanically known as Narcissus,  are deer, rabbit and squirrel resistant bulbs and are available in a huge range of heights, flower size and color combinations. I love the small Jonquils and many miniature varieties. One of my all time favorites, great for naturalizing, lining a walk or for the edge of a garden bed is N. Minnow. It has small white petals and tiny sulfur yellow trumpets on multiple flowers held above each single stem. An even earlier cousin of Minnow is the well known Tete-a-tete with its long yellow trumpet and reflexed petals. Similar to Tete-a-tete, N. Pencrebar is a double flowered version and N. Rip Van Winkle sends up short stems of yellow starburst flowers. Narcissus Geranium, one the latest flowering Tazetta Daffodils, is fragrant with white petals and orange-red trumpets. It is another multi flowering type. I like to plant it with early Tulips such as Red Riding Hood and blue Grape Hyacinths. There are more fragrant Narcissus to seek out as well as the double flowering types. I grow pink Daffodils with Virginia Bluebells. Small cupped Daffodils like Pheasant’s Eye, are some of the latest large flower varieties to bloom and fragrant. Daffodils are true, long lived, perennial bulbs. They are resistant to animals. And they will give you many years of spring color.

Tulips, though certainly not deer or rabbit resistant, add such a splurge of color in the spring garden. Some of the little species tulips are fun to try, like Tulipa Tarda that looks like a fried egg with its flattened petals. Tulipa hummilis varieties are available in shades of magenta and T. Ice Stick and T. Lady Jane resemble candy canes with their red exterior and white interior petals. Large flowering Tulips run the gamut of shapes, colors and flowering times. Look for the Virdiflora Tulips with their delicately feathered green outer petals supplanted on inner petals of varying shades. Parrot Tulips are so called because their many faceted petals resembling the feathers of birds and the bright colors of parrots. Peony flowering types have big, double blooms and are great for arrangements as are striped Rembrandt Tulips made known in the 1600’s during the Dutch tulip rage.

Besides these wonderful spring blooming bulbs, a few hardy summer flowering bulbs can also be planted now. Alliums and Lilies are great bulbs to tuck around perennials as an accent or to fill a space when perennials are out of bloom.

A perfect companion to spring bulbs is the fall pansy, so called because it is available for fall planting, but not restricted to fall flowering. Pansies planted in fall will continue to flower as long as temperatures remain above freezing. Do not wait too late to plant fall pansies OR daffodils as they will need to develop a good root system to get them through the winter. But then, oh my, they will be the best spring pansies you have ever grown. Some mild winters they flower straight through from fall until they go to seed in June or July. Happy planting.

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