By Molly Day
All the Dirt on Gardening
Nothing says spring like a pot or plot of tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinths. They are in the stores now because spring blooming bulbs are planted in the fall. Plenty of sun and good drainage are all they need.
Although tulips have been grown in the Netherlands since 1590, they came from the Near East. Because of their formal appearance, tulips look great in rigid beds in lines of color.
Purple, yellow, red and parrot tulips can be blended together or planted in banks/stripes of color. Plant early, mid-season and late blooming varieties in separate groups so you will have flowering blocks of blooms rather than blotches.
Although most hybrid tulips are annuals in this area, the small, non-hybrid (called species) tulips may return. Look for these species tulips: bakeri, clusiana, kaufmanniana, saxatilis, sylvestris, tarda and whitallii.
Daffodils or narcissus can bloom early, mid-season or late. They are reliable and will multiply. The variety of daffodils grows relentlessly and now includes miniature to large, short to tall, scented, pink as well as yellow, orange, white and bicolored. Some are single, some flower in clusters and others are double. Poets bloom last, multiply, and naturalize.
Daffseek (daffseek.org), sponsored by the American Daffodil Society, is maintained by Nancy Tackett and Ben Blake. At the site, any daffodil name can be entered in order to get the details of its height, bloom time (early season (E), mid-season (M) or late season (L), and flower size/color.
Minor bulbs are ideal to plant in beds and to naturalize under trees and around shrubs. Because they have short leaves and tiny flowers, plant at least 25 or they will not be visible.
Minor bulbs include chionodoxa, snowdrops, grape hyacinth (muscari), squill, crocus, anemone, fritillaria, Iris reticulata and species tulips.
Snowdrops (galanthus) are planted 3 inches deep and apart. Chionodoxa, muscari and scilla will colonize, re-seeding to fill a bed. Chionodoxa can have up to 10 flowers per stem.
Species crocus such as crocus chrysanthus, flavus, sieberi, and angustifolius bloom early. Tomasinianus (Tommie) Ruby Giant can naturalize, perhaps because the squirrels do not prefer them. Crocus vernus Negro Boy is a durable historic variety.
Crocus bulbs naturalize best in part-shade and in thin lawns where the soil is not treated with chemicals of any kind.
Grape hyacinths (muscari) vary from 6 to 12 inches tall, and their white, blue, or violet flowers always edge a bulb garden nicely.
Hyacinths are favored for their scent. Spanish bluebells, hyacinthoides hispanica excelsior, are critter resistant.
If local stores do not have the bulbs and advice you want, here are a few of the dozens of companies where you can shop:
• Breck's, http://brecks.com, (812) 260-2147. This business sells single and double tulips, green pearl daffodil, ornithogalum, hyacinths, muscari, etc. Check out the “deals” link – 120 tulips or daffodils for $67; 80 windflowers (anemone) for $27.
• Brent and Becky's Bulbs, https://store.brentandbeckysbulbs.
com, (804) 693-3966. This outlet is known for good quality bulbs. Its online catalog has plant descriptions, suggested companion plants that bloom at the same time, planting tips and information on whether the flower is deer resistant.
• Mitsch Daffodils, www.
mitschdaffodils.com, (503) 651-2742. Garden and exhibition daffodil bulbs with many new hybrids and introductions including mineatures, standards, tazettas, pendants and scented.
• Old House Gardens, www.
oldhousegardens.com, (734) 995-1486. Heirloom bulbs that thrive in Southern gardens, including fragrant, double, large cup, trumpet, and wild daffodils plus species, single, parrot and double tulips.
• Southern Bulbs, www.
southernbulbs.com, (888) 285-2486. Bulbs for the South, including species tulips, spider lilies, Spanish bluebells and others.
• Touch of Nature, www.touchofnature.com, (770) 237-0993. Bulbs for gardens and large projects. Selections: Alliums, anemones, chiondoxa, hyacinths, crocus, daffodils, tulips, etc. They offer Bushels of Bulbs for large plantings, fundraising and collections.
There will be more bulb planting tips this week at www.allthedirtongardening.blogspot.com.