As autumn nears, it’s a good time to think spring. Spring-flowering bulbs can only be planted during the fall. Daffodils are the mainstay of the bulb garden and are reliable performers, while showy Tulips should be replenished each year to keep their impact strong.
There are many other spring-flowering bulbs that are not as well known, but definitely should be in everyone’s garden. Here is a list of lesser known bulbs that are also resistant to deer and rabbits. A thoughtful combination that is carefully arranged can provide wonderful, continuous color, starting as soon as the snow melts and finishing with the arrival of summer.
Listed in order of their appearance, you can count on the following bulbs to bloom and perform beautifully in your garden.
Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, do well in our area and emerge very early. The small, three-segmented, drooping white flowers are 5″ tall and stand out dramatically above their silver-green foliage.
Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, is another early bloomer. The solitary, yellow buttercup-shaped flowers grow 6″ tall and are surrounded by bright green bracts that look like a collar around the blossom.
Reticulated Iris, Iris reticulata, has little vibrant purple blooms with a gold stripe appear above thin-straplike leaves. 8-12 inches tall.
Glory of the Snow, Chionodoxa, are low growing plants, reaching 4-6″ high with grass-like leaves that appear the same time as the flowers. Star-shaped flowers face upwards and last two weeks or more, and are available in white or blue. (March/April)
Scilla, Scilla siberica, also called ‘Squill’, has vivid blue flowers and stands about 5″ tall. You can see some strikingly beautiful and very large drifts in many North Shore gardens where they have been naturalizing for many years. Some varieties are available in pink and white, but the blues are spring time knock-outs.
Windflower, Anemone blanda, is a charming border plant with daisy-like flowers that comes in a variety of blues, pinks, violets and white. The foliage resembles parsley and the plant stands about 6″ tall.
Grape Hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum, is the largest of the minor bulbs with tiny deep blue flowers densely clustered, like miniature grapes, on a firm stalk. The flower cluster is about 5″ long and the plant grows to 7″ or 8″ tall. They bloom a long time and produce a striking effect when planted in drifts.
Species Tulips, Tulipa spp., bloom in early spring and are smaller in size than the better-know hybrid tulips. Growing only 4-12” tall, they nonetheless come in many shapes and colors, and naturalize better than hybrid tulips in the garden. T. greigii grows 8-12 inches tall and blooms in mid spring, and is available in pink, yellow, orange, red, ivory and peach. T. linifolia grows only 4 to 6 inches tall with vibrant red flowers.
Camas Lily, Camassia leichtinii, is a mid-sized plant that sends up slender purple, star shaped flower stalks atop its grasslike leaves. Plant these in an undisturbed area, and they will naturalize in your garden for years. Foliage dies back in early summer. 24-32”h.
Crown Imperial, Fritillaria imperialis, are large plants that send out stately, impressive 3-foot tall flower stalks. Nodding whorls of colorful flowers in red, yellow or orange red are topped by a crown of spiky, glossy leaves. Great for the back of the border or in a location you want to make a bold statement.
Ornamental Onion, Allium spp., is naturally deer-resistant and comes in different forms and sizes. Purple Sensation Allium has 2? to 4? diameter purple globes on sturdy 24-30” stems in early June. Globemaster Allium is a tall and architectural plant, with, huge, globe-shaped purple flower heads on 3- to 4-foot stems. Beautiful next to peonies and irises.