Tag Archives: bulbs

Camassia Bulbs Offer Spring Beauty with American Heritage

This fall I planted camassia bulbs in honor of the Meriwether Lewis and William Clark historic expedition that started in 1804. I always think of them when I see a field of the blue flowers so I thought I would try growing them this year. Mine is a cultivar called ‘Blue Melody’ but of course they were dealing with the wild species Camassia quamash. Continue reading

Got Deer? Here Are a Few Deer-Proof Bulbs for Spring Flowers

snowdrop blossoms in the woodsNow is the time to start thinking about purchasing spring-blooming bulbs in the Washington DC metro area. There is a wide variety of choices but if you have a severe deer problem, you may want to plant deer-proof bulbs. I know, you say, there is no such thing as “deer-proof.” However, with bulbs there are a few that are actually poisonous. The amaryllis family offers three popular critter-proof bulbs that contain lycorine, a poisonous crystalline alkaloid. Somehow, animals know about lycorine and stay away from these bulbs plus the bulbs perform well in this area and last for many years in the garden. Continue reading

Don’t Forget to Order Bulbs for Summer Blooms!

Many gardeners focus on obtaining seed now to start their garden in the spring. But given the increased interest in gardening it may be best for gardeners to also focus on ordering summer-blooming bulbs as soon as possible. It will be too cold to plant them now in the DC metro area and some nurseries do not even ship them until later when it is warmer. But given the high demand for seeds, gardeners may want to select and order their summer blooming bulbs now to make sure they have them when it is time to plant in May. Continue reading

Amaryllis: A Holiday Tradition

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Charisma is an early blooming amaryllis, just in time for Christmas. Photo courtesy of Longfield Gardens.

Growing an amaryllis is easy, just plant and water. Unlike the spring blooming bulbs, an amaryllis does not need a chilling period. It is a tropical plant, hardy to Zones 9-12. Once planted, these large bulbs can bloom in time for the holidays, depending on the bulb. Although they may seem like an investment, you can coax the bulb to re-bloom the following year. Continue reading

Forcing Paperwhites with Alcohol Prevents Flopping

The first time I forced bulbs to bloom indoors was when I was taking a horticulture class at Northern Virginia Community College in the 1970s. We were given paperwhite bulbs (Narcissus tazetta) that we placed in a shallow dish of water and pebbles. Continue reading

Fall is a Great Time for Planting!

 

chrysanthemumsFall is a great time to plant shrubs, trees, bulbs, and hardy perennials in the DC metro area. The cooler temperatures, increased moisture, and decreased sun/heat allow the plants to settle in the ground, send out roots, and get established before winter. Continue reading

Deer-Proof Bulbs for Spring Flowers

snowdrop blossoms in the woodsFall is the time to purchase spring-blooming bulbs in the Washington DC metro area. There is a wide variety of choices but if you have a severe deer problem, you may want to plant deer-proof bulbs. I know, you say, there is no such thing as “deer-proof” but with bulbs there are a few that are actually poisonous. I spoke with Brent Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, VA, who explained the difference between deer-proof and deer-resistant. Continue reading

Now That You Have Seeds, Order Bulbs for Summer Blooms!

Many gardeners focus on obtaining seed in the spring to start their garden. Now that summer is around the corner, don’t forget to order summer-blooming bulbs such as alliums, cannas, crinums, dahlias, lilies, gladiolus, and iris. For interesting foliage, try caladiums, colocasias, and alocasias. Below is a list of companies that sell bulbs in alphabetical order. For other companies that primarily sell seeds and may also sell bulbs, click on the “Seed Companies” tab on pegplant.com. Continue reading

Early Spring Bloomers: Dwarf Irises

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Harmony

It is the end of January and already I can see the spiky green emerging from the mass of dead, brown leaves. Dwarf irises are one of my earliest bloomers in my zone 7 Virginia garden. These irises are only 4-5 inches tall and bloom solitary flowers. Mine have been in my garden for a long time, nothing bothers them. Usually they bloom in early March. This year we have had such a mild winter, I think I will see flowers in February.

J.S. Dijt

J.S. Dijt

Also known as netted iris, dwarf irises (Iris reticulata) are very small bulbs, covered with a fibrous netting. There are many cultivars; flower colors range from light to dark blue or light to dark purple. Preferring full sun and well-drained soil, they thrive in rock gardens, on steps and terraces, in containers, and can be forced to bloom indoors in pots. The flowers can be cut for small desk top vases, bringing early spring cheer to the office or home.

They are available to plant in the fall, along with other bulbs, at local garden centers or through bulb companies. Because they are so small though, buy at least a handful. Plant with roots pointing down, spike pointing up, three inches deep and three inches apart. Hardy to zone 5, they die back in the summer and come back in the spring every year. In my garden, ‘J.S. Dijt’ and ‘Harmony’ have thrived for years with no pests or diseases.

Deer-Resistant Bulbs in the Lily Family for a Spring Show

Of the fall-planted, spring-blooming bulbs, there are several in the lily family (Liliaceae) that are deer resistant. These are worth trying in your garden. If you have a severe deer issue, you may want to try deer-proof bulbs. As mentioned in my deer-proof article, I talked with Brent Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, VA, who explained the difference between deer proof and deer resistant.

“Critter-proof bulbs are poisonous to animals such as deer, rabbits, squirrels, and voles,” Brent said. “Critter-resistant bulbs have some quality that is unpleasant to the critter but if the critter is hungry enough it will eat the plant.” Because there are three types of deer-proof bulbs in the amaryllis family–daffodils, snowflakes, and snowdrops–you may want to expand your palette of colors with deer-resistant bulbs in the lily family. Try planting these in areas where you know deer do not frequent or cannot gain access. Brent also recommended using Plantskydd repellent for these bulbs. “Plantskydd is most effective,” he said. “You dip the bulb in the liquid, let it dry, and then plant in the ground. It prevents the critters from smelling the sweet smell of the bulbs so they tend to leave the bulbs alone.” Here are six deer-resistant bulbs in the lily family to plant now for a spring show.

Alliums

The drumstick shape of Allium sphaerocephalon

Alliums, also called ornamental onions, are grown for beautiful flowers, not for edible onions. “Allium bulbs have a distasteful, strong onion smell that critters find offensive,” said Brent. Usually the flowers are globe shaped and can be quite large. They bloom in late spring and early summer, preferring full sun and well-drained soil. Many of these flower heads work well as cut flowers and as dried flowers. There are globes, large and small; the drumstick shape (Allium sphaerocephalon); the firecracker shape (A. schubertii); and the large chive shape (A. unifolium), to name a few. The size of the bulb varies so planting depth varies but generally bulbs are planted 2 to 3 times their width.

Grape Hyacinths

Grape hyacinths in a container

The grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) is a small bulb but makes a big impact if planted in masses. Most people think of blue or purple grape looking flowers but there is a wide variety of colors. Some flowers are two-toned — blue and white or yellow and purple or white and purple. Some have all white flowers, or purple, or pink. Some flower structures have hairy, fuzzy flowers, instead of the common, grape-like clusters. Grape hyacinth bulbs naturalize well, can be grown in full or partial sun or dapple shade, and are great for planting under deciduous trees. Because of their small size, they do well in containers for forcing for an early indoor bloom. They bloom in March and April.

Hyacinths

“Hyacinth bulbs have scales that are a skin irritant so wear gloves when handling them,” recommended Brent. “This also is an irritant to critters.” Hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis) are less than a foot tall and flower colors come in ranges of pinks, yellow, blues, and whites. The actual flower shape does not vary much with cultivars. The bulbs last for a long time in the garden and over the years, the florets become looser, with more space between them instead of a tight cluster. Hyacinths prefer well-drained soil and full sun. They are very fragrant which is not as noticeable outside but can overpower a room if cut for a vase inside. Because of their small size, they do well in containers for forcing for an early indoor bloom. They bloom in March and April.

Spanish Bluebells

“Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) are highly critter resistant,” said Brent. These have about the same height and color palette as hyacinths but the florets are tubular bells. They can tolerate shade, are often found in woodland areas, but also can be grown in sun. They naturalize well and can be used as a cut flower. They do not have such an overpowering scent like hyacinths.

Star flowers

Star Flowers

Star flowers (Ipheion uniflorum) have a nice fragrance but are too small for cutting and the foliage reeks of garlic. “When crushed, the star flower leaves smell like garlic so the plant is critter resistant,” said Brent. The flowers have six petals in pale blue, lavender, pink, or white, resembling a star. The plant is about 6 inches tall with thin, grass like foliage so it is best to grown them in a group or drift. As long as the soil is well drained, they have a wide range of soil tolerance and can be grown in full sun to part shade. They bloom in April and naturalize well.

Glory of the Snow

Glory of the snow (Chionodoxa forbesii) also has star-shaped flowers but they are more open and each flower is lavender with a white center. Again, a small, 6-inch plant so they are not used for cutting. They work well in a group or drift and naturalize easily. Glory of the snow blooms in March, sometimes with snow on the ground, and in April. They need well-drained soil and full sun to part shade.

Glory of the snow in a drift

All of these bulbs should be available to purchase now at your local independent garden center or order online through one of these bulb companies.

All photos courtesy of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.