There’s more to spring-flowering bulbs than tulips, daffodils
For The Associated Press
NEW MARKET, Va. ” If it’s flower bulbs you want for that new cutting garden, then there’s more than tulips from which to choose.
There are bulbs that convey fragrance and others that provide ground cover, bulbs that blossom when snow’s on the ground and others that bloom into summer. And the good thing is that spring-flowering bulbs require minimal care once they’re established.
Some even “naturalize” after a year or two, or self-propagate if they’re in a place they like, adding still more color as the seasons come and go.
Here are some lesser known bulb varieties, bulbs new to the market, rare heirloom bulbs or bulbs that look promising for certain special characteristics:
– “Alliums are fabulous,” said Jo-Anne van den Berg-Ohms, president of Van Engelen Inc., a wholesale flower bulb company in Bantam, Conn. “They have huge globes, primarily purple that look like hovering balloons.” Try the “Schubertii” (a small, low-growing varietal with rose-purple florets), “Gladiator” (large, growing to 2-feet-tall with 6-inch rose-purple globes), or “Globemaster” (an aster-violet-colored giant with early foliage that stays green). Most alliums or “flowering onions” are deer- and rodent resistant and appear stunning when cut or dried. Hardiness zones 5-8.
– “Lilies are great for early- to mid- and late summer bloom,” van den Berg-Ohms said. “They’re terrific for garden display as well as in cut arrangements. The same with Dutch and dwarf iris.” Some suggestions: “Dot Com” lily (flowers in June and July with a pale whitish-pink bloom and brilliant raspberry-red speckled center), “Royal Fantasy” lily (honey tones of soft yellow varying to cream with raspberry-rose fragrance). Hardiness zones 4-8..
– Galanthus, or Snowdrops, one of the earliest flowers to emerge in spring. Try “Elwesii” (large flowering variety with creamy white flowers tipped green on gray-green foliage), or “nivalis Flore Pleno” (the so-called “Double Snowdrop” has milky white, drooping flowers tipped green. A good naturalizer.) Hardiness zones 3-8.
– Hyacinths. Compact, fragrant and hardy with up to six stems per bulb. Try “Blue Festival” (purple-blue with pale petal edges) or “White Festival” (opens creamy-white and matures to snow white). Hardiness zones 4-8.
– Daffodils. Good naturalizers with a long blooming season. Some favorites include the “Mount Hood” (opens creamy yellow and turns ivory-white as it matures) and “King Alfred Jumbo” (a large yellow variety popular for mass plantings or cut flower arrangements). Hardiness zones 3-7.
– Camassia. Star-shaped flowers on long stems that do well in moist sites. Try the “Blue Danube” (a blue bloom with yellow stamens) or “Semiplena” (a semi-double flowering plant with creamy blossoms, yellowing gradually as they age).
– Crocus. Can be planted massed in rock gardens, orchards, woodlots and gardens. Deer and other garden browsers usually avoid them. They start showing up in March and April around the Snowbelt. Try the “tommasianianus Lilac Beauty” (has star-shaped petals in a soft lilac color with contrasting yellow stamens) or the larger “vernus Jeanne d’Arc” (a vivid white with yellow stamens and purple base). Hardy through zones 4-8.
While it’s fun to discover so many flowering bulb varieties, don’t be quick to reject tulips, either ” especially some of the new shapes in “designer” hybrids or the tried-and-true heirlooms.
“When people think of tulips, they usually think of the standard but spectacular tall, slender blooms,” van den Berg-Ohms said. “But many new varieties have been introduced in the last few years ” blooms with fringes, doubles or lily-shapes. There are even varieties now with six or seven flowers per stem.”
The benefits of heirloom bulbs are many and varied, said Scott Kunst of Old House Gardens in Ann Arbor, Mich., which specializes in unique and endangered flower bulbs.
“Heirloom bulbs are time-tested, which means the weaklings have been weeded out,” Kunst said. “They’re often more graceful because they’re closer to wildflowers, more fragrant ” which is hard to breed for ” and they come in a wider variety of colors and styles.”