February 2018

Plant bulbs now for sure-fire blooms in spring

The white Allium nigrum is gorgeous in a shade garden and spectacular when paired with deep purple Allium atropurpureum. Photo courtesy Longfield Gardens

There are not a lot of sure things in the gardening world, but spring blooming bulbs are about as close as you get.

The tulips (Tulipa), daffodils (Narcissus), hyacinths (Hyacinthus), alliums and other bulbs we buy at garden centers, online or mail order retailers are programmed to bloom next spring. All we need to do is plant them in fall.

Between now and early November is the planting window for spring bulbs. They usually need about six weeks to develop roots before the ground freezes.

Daffodils are the most reliable bulbs. They are poisonous, so squirrels, chipmunks and voles don’t dig up the bulbs and the deer do not eat the flowers. Tulips are like lollipops for deer in spring, and crocus seems to be a favorite of the digging critters in fall and spring. One way to counter the appetite of wildlife is to plant some for the animals and some for you.

If you have a lot of shade in your landscape, concentrate on early bloomers, which give their show before trees and shrubs leaf out.

Special bulbs are great for naturalizing in the lawn because they bloom and fade before you have to mow. Scilla and glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa) are two popular choices. Crocuses favored for naturalizing are called “Tommies,” the nickname for Crocus tommasinianus, which also tend to be resistant to chipmunks.

Just like you do in summer, experiment with bulbs you haven’t tried before, such as alliums, fritillaries or Grecian windflowers (Anemone blanda).

Most garden centers have good selections of the more popular spring blooming bulbs. Many online and mail order retailers have blends or mixes of colors that make planting easy. Here are some favorites:

* Old House Gardens, which is celebrating 20 years of specializing in heirloom bulbs.

* Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, which offers Bloomin’ Bucks, a program that donates a portion of your order total to your favorite charity.

* Longfield Gardens, which has beautiful pairings of bulbs.



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