You know what they say about gifts in small packages? Well, bulbs are little presents you can hold in the palm of your hand.
Think about it. You dig a hole, plunk them in any way except upside down and wait. Over the winter, like magic, they secretly spread out their roots and grow beneath the soil. Just when you’ve had all you can stand of Old Man Winter, small leaves pierce the surface, and suddenly, you know that no matter how many more late freezes, spring is on its way. If you’re like me, in early March, you kneel on the ground close to the surface of the soil and visit the little sprigs every morning encouraging their progress. Each day they grow a smidge taller until one sunny afternoon, a flower balances on top of a tall, thin stalk.
Petals softer than moonlight open toward the sun, and you find yourself turning toward that friendly orb too. If you also feel the urge to throw your hands up in the air and yell, “Woo hoo!,” go ahead. You and your bulbs earned the right to such joy by planning ahead in the fall.
So, Which bulbs take your fancy this year? Have you placed your order? May I offer a couple of suggestions?
- The smaller species tulips like T. clusiana and T. clusiana var. chrysantha, a yellow variety, T. sylvestris and ‘Tinka’ all perennialize better in climates like Oklahoma’s and further south. Brent and Becky’s have a large selection of these small gems for the garden. I especially like ‘Lady Jane’, but I’ve read she doesn’t perennialize as well as some others. We’ll see whether this is true in the lower garden once spring comes again.
- The Bulb Project has an extensive list of those bulbs which perennialize. It is worth checking out.
- If you want the larger, showier tulips, that’s fine. In Oklahoma and more southern climes, just consider them annuals, and if they return, you’ll be so much the happier.
- Whatever you buy, Narcissus, Tulipa, Chionodoxa or any others, buy more than you think you need. In fact, triple what you think you need. With bulbs, I always apply the Mae West view of, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.”
- Buy from a reputable company like: Old House Gardens for beautiful heirlooms, Brent & Becky’s for the newest and brightest, Van Engelen for wholesale orders over $50 (without shipping), or John Scheepers’ if you’re spending less. I also like Southern Bulb Company, but I think they need to expand their repertoire. Odyssey Bulbs is a lesser known (to me) company, but they have many varied offerings. I found them through Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening.
- If you decide to place an order, may I suggest some Byzantine glads? They really light up the garden and are more delicate than my ‘Atomic’ I planted in spring. They do come back every year too and look great with daylily foliage. Also, in the diverse garden, I think Leucojum aestivum, Gravetye Giant Snowflake’ are sweet and tough beauties. Easy to grow and no fuss. In fact, Leslie from Digging Davis shared some with me two years ago, and I think of her every time I see them.
So, far, I’ve placed an order with Van Engelen and Old House Gardens. Would you like to hear what I bought?
After struggling with alliums for the last couple of seasons, I only bought the drumstick allium, Allium Sphaerocephalon this year. I will plant them in a dry spot and hope they come back. I loved them so much last year. Inspired by my friend, Gail at Clay and Limestone, I also ordered Crocus Tommas ‘Barr’s Purple’, and C. tommasinianus ‘Ruby Giant.’ I’m hoping they will spread better than the other crocus I’ve grown. The same with Muscari commosum plumosum, a type of grape hyacinth and T. clusiana ‘ Lady Jane” and T. clusiana ‘Cherry Tubergens Gem.’
While in Buffalo, I saw lilies growing everywhere. I’ll be honest. I’ve not had much luck with lilies, but Mary Ann of Gardens of the Wild Wild West said the secret is to not water them after blooming thus giving them the hot dry environment they crave. Therefore, I decided to buy ‘ Black Beauty,’ and I’ll let you know how it does in coming years. I also ordered Rhodophiala bifida, oxblood lilies, and because I love Elizabeth Lawrence, C. chrysanthus, ‘Snowbunting’. It was her favorite.
Then, while at our local TLC Nursery, I picked up some ‘Red Riding Hood’ tulips because I couldn’t resist. I have a thing for red tulips and haven’t planted them in years. I also bought a precious few red spider lilies, Lycoris radiata. Because they are so expensive, let’s hope they make babies and multiply.
That’s all for me. Well, except after glancing through my pictures, I want T. ‘Maytime’ too. I’m curious about what you’re buying this year though. What bulbs are the focus of your spring garden? Maybe you’ll inspire me to buy even more.